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Five O’clock Mum

She’d been zigzagging between desks
when a schoolbag’s strap caught her ankle
like a lasso. She went down fast.
Yes, she remembers opening her eyes
when struck down:
those boys’ hanging faces
the Japanese alphabet high on the wall, the words
rokku and ojiisan, a drawing of a blue dog, and a photo
of some girls in Nagasaki, their sister city.
Three grinning boys had made a crane
and winched her to her feet.
To get up is a triumph, she says,
to be upright is to be the tallest person in the room;
to move is to make anything in the world, if it were a classroom, possible
but it reminds you how recklessly
you’ve grown: the business of having legs and feet,
finding your head among paper horses and fish
drifting on strings,
and being supposed to tell people
the words for rock music and granddad.
At five o’clock, a first glass of wine
rests upright in her hands. Her face is full
of lines today; a smile keeps catching on them.

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