Age is cruel

I didn’t see you there

He said, excusing himself,

Of course you didn’t,

She’s only in front of you,

Only in front of your eyes,

Only in front of your face,

You could reach out and touch her,

Ask her how she is

If she’s lost, confused

How much time,

Does it really take

To recognise a face in the crowd?

To speak a greeting, say her name aloud,

To make her feel

Like a person, like a human, alive

And not just a shambling wreck,

Disreputable broken down remnant

Haunting the street,

Phantom of another generation

When young girls wore wide skirts

Kicked up their heels Daddy-O

To the swing of the saxophone,

She was one of the first teenagers

To strut her stuff, put up her hair, kiss boys

And smoke secret cigarettes, her mother didn’t approve of, and

Now, here she is, sixty years later,

Her memory blanked by dementia,

The smooth page of her face

Scribbled over with age lines,

Her hair, a brindled rat’s nest,

As she staggers down the road

Cars honking, people swearing

At her too slow gait

She looks to the faces of the people on the pavement,

But they just look away,

Where is the boy who kissed her at the dance?

Where are her father and mother, long dead?

Where is her youth? Faded,

Faded as the crumpled wedding corsage she carries in her wrinkled hand,

I didn’t see you there, he said,

But she saw him – Alfie, darling?

She said speaking to the man she loved and married,

Bore three children for, now all grown up and moved away

With lives of their own and loves of their own,

And no time to see grandma

No time to sit with her in the nursing home,

Listening to her stories, to her memories

Which are scrambled anyway, misplaced and shattered

Like the vase she shattered on the mantelpiece at Christmas,

When she forgot whose child it was that tugged at her skirt,

Whose face it was that called her in for dinner,

And now? Now she’s an embarrassment,

Packed away and kept in her place

That isn’t her place at all.

Age is cruel.

Inspired by something that happened to a member of my family. Written as a spoken word piece to be performed.

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