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by NinaLara 

Posted: 17 September 2006
Word Count: 213
Related Works: Exam Time • 

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When her mind throws up
the pink cottage
Baxters rented
for their Easter holidays
(inviting her along to keep
the daughter company)

she feels the shiver
of pre-war bathroom
built up back, away from
the wood-burning stove
and clear views
across to Isle of Wight.

followed her up stairs
the morning she planned
to seduce his eldest son
on a cliff top walk.
He sprung the lock

cornered her
by the geyser,
held her hands,
kissed them
with his grey mouth
without her knowing why.

Turning her eyes blind
seemed the easiest option
til she was late.
Her mother found out,
assumed she had seduced
the eldest son: “poor lad

and him in the middle
of his exams.
How can I ever look
Baxters in the eyes again?”
It seemed the easiest option
not to put Mother right.

She was driven to the clinic
which seemed the easiest option
as no one need ever know.
Twenty years later,
Mother takes offence
when she doesn’t eat,

turns up looking grey and squashed
in front of the neighbours:
“when their children
are so normal
and so successful,
especially the eldest son.”

She never puts Mother right
about the pink cottage,
or her life:
she keeps it tightly coiled,
which seems the easiest option.

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Comments by other Members

joanie at 20:06 on 17 September 2006  Report this post
Nina! No time to read properly right now but I'm looking forward to reading this soon.


joanie at 21:02 on 17 September 2006  Report this post
Hi Nina, I'm back! I really did enjoy the format of this; the way it developed unexpectedly kept me very much involved to the end. I'm trying to analyse what I like: the opening verse, certainly, especially the bracketed bits, the reference to Baxters rather than the Baxters, the change from her mother to Mother, especially the eldest son (shivers up the spine!)
tightly coiled
- yes, I know just what you mean.

This rings horribly true. I keep re-reading and pondering.


(Typo(?) Isn't it Isle of Wight?)

NinaLara at 08:19 on 18 September 2006  Report this post
Thanks Joanie - yes it is Isle of Wight! My mind seems to forget about spelling when it's doing poetry!

James Graham at 19:14 on 18 September 2006  Report this post
It's a sad story - told differently it might even be depressing - but all through the poem you keep hitting a note of dark comedy. She plans to seduce the Baxter son, but the father gets there first. Then her mother assumes the son is the father...so to speak. The irony of 'poor lad, and him in the middle of his exams' is priceless, especially in view of what Mother has to say about him twenty years later.

There are many telling small details, e.g. the 'pink cottage' with 'clear views' of the Isle of Wight, an ironic setting for the sort of thing that goes on there. (Regularly on the part of Baxter, perhaps, with different victims?) By the way, you sketch in the cottage extraordinarily well in those two stanzas.

Other lines: '...his grey mouth' is chilling; so, in a different way, is 'or her life' which falls last in a list of three things she 'never puts Mother right' about - like an afterthought almost, yet the most comprehensive. She never puts Mother right about any aspect of her life. Mother is wrong about most things, makes wrong judgements, jumps to wrong conclusions; but it's a very hard option to try to correct her.

The 'easiest option' refrain is very effective - it's not the same kind of easy option every time, and its final appearance sums up all the implications of this rather arid mother-daughter relationship.

I like the tone of the poem. Your manner of telling the story is quite light, but the serious implications are very near the surface. A fine balance.


NinaLara at 08:55 on 19 September 2006  Report this post
Thanks James - I was unsure about the easiest option refrain and am glad it works for you. Strange how poems seem to take on a spirit of their own sometimes ...

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