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‘She’s a game old bird’

My granny

takes canary sips
from her service-station tea,
jaundiced eyes lantern-bright
as she asks, again,
who the ambulance is for.

is magpie-quick
the nurses say,
fills her knicker drawer
with plasters, rubber gloves,
someone else’s dentures.

sticks her beak in other rooms
Look at’em! Lolling!
picks over the injustice
like a pigeon
pecking at its bruised breast.

her curled fingers
clawing damp strands.
Presently, she says,
I shall ask you to leave.

sings of her cuckoo-child,
sees his father one day in me
and cups my face,
tells me I have nothing
to be sorry for.

lies in a sketch of stillness:
eyes and mouth drawn
A sense of
something flown.



Liz Soar teaches English and French at a school in Oxford.  This poem was written in response to an assignment on Claire Askew’s course Creatrix: Women’s Poetries for the 21st Century.

‘A year 7 pupil recently asked me how long it takes to write a poem; in this case, it was about 20 years.  Some of these images have appeared in other attempts to write about my grandmother, but it took a prompt from Claire’s course to bring them all together.’


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Image credit: Silvia Benedet