Other People's Lives

Lorna Shaughnessy

She looks at the clock in the empty kitchen,
it’s only two and already Christmas is over.

Children have recoiled is if from a sudden blast
to books and cds behind the firewall of bedroom doors.
She makes a cup of tea, tries to read the paper. By the time
she reads the same page twice the tea’s gone cold.
The tree in the garden blinks, its blue lights squalid in the rain.

She phones her family but everyone’s engaged.
Somewhere out there it’s still Christmas.

Brisk, she pops small gifts into a bag, grabs a coat

and walks to the neighbours’ where small boys

still sparkle with fairy dust and the morning’s wonder.
A stolen hour from someone else’s day;
she feels pathetic and reassured in equal parts.

There’s movement in the kitchen when she returns.

There will be dinner, and dry meat will stick in their throats;

bad karma, she thinks, to cook a bird no-one wants to eat.

But the trimmings will tease the palate, the wine will warm

and everyone will be careful. After, they will all succumb
to mute witness, the escape valve of the flickering TV light,

of other voices, other people’s lives, anaesthetised by the fire’s heat.