All her life she’s been on the cusp
of leaving, given half an hour or less
to gather the scattered vertebrae
of her whiplashed spine, the stuck valves
of her ragged heart, move on.
Surviving, she’s unsound talk,
the wrong side of someone else’s war,
is forced to go, without coat or comb,
only her girls with just the words
they stand up in, hanging on.
Each time she’s moved on something else
is lost: a brooch, a tooth, her first name.
Some things replace themselves:
unspeaking neighbours, namecalling,
children pulled away.
She’s fallout from unlearned history
blown with entropic winds to end up here,
at ninety, cramped in one room, another century,
another place, whose road signs cheerfully proclaim
its twinning with some German town.
Her tongue betrays her every time
her door is forced: then, by some young soldier
just obeying orders; now, by those fragments
of her shrinking generation. Among shells of old men
gunned down by her accent, widows
still nailing their grief on her hands,
she sits with her coat on, ready to leave.