Emily Wills


Between the wars, he bags a sort of living
from humbugs and gobstoppers, black jacks
sticky as tar, a fug of mentholyptus

clouding the gas in his lungs, as he chews his pipe
counts bullseyes, liquorice torpedoes,
love-hearts, and under the counter

the pawned small sadnesses of things –
cufflinks, figurines, the tarnished clasps
of the missing presumed, the left behind.

She never tells her parents, never asks
whose soapy fingers prized the ring he gave her
for a few coins, for offal or flour.

She only watches small, once shiny things
deserting, slowly at first – her mother's
ugly brooch, fishknives unused for years –

then as the children bicker and outgrow –
that locket, auntie's cast off fur, his wedding suit,
the baby's keepsake christening band.

Fridays, he weighs a quarter of misshapes,
the girls squabbling for the purple foiled
they call the slug. He takes the coconut

no-one else wants, and saves for her the toffee
golden coin. Such slow dissolve, this overwhelm
of aching sweetness on her stoppered tongue.

Return to Adjudicators Report