She had palms like a lanolined handbag,
And a smile like a scratched window pane.
But she could sing carols
Like an earthbound angel.
We used to watch her as she passed our front gate.
Bundled against the cold,
Blowing on blue, painful hands while
Asking for a light if she saw you, then
“Thank you my duck!” And borne away
By the cigarette’s Lazarus wings, she walked on.
But her Silent Night could break a statue’s heart. Just
To hear her echo on the houses as she passed by,
Smoke perfumed and
more free than the sky she serenaded,
That brought Christmas to life for me then.
And even now I can’t hear tell of a Bleak Midwinter
Without smelling Player’s cigarettes,
And waiting to hear the spoon stirring tea, chiming
Like the bells of advent.
Announcing her passing,
Admitting her to all.
19 December 2014