In my mother’s wallet,
It brings them all to life, those wives
At afternoon tea in the YMCA hall.
Mother and her sister smile out,
Cossetted and married, stylish
Chanel navys and a dash of red,
Wearing hats with upturned brims.

How lovely the hats! How treacherous
The poise of that afternoon, each woman
On the edge of her chair, around a small table
Of pink cups and iced buns, with lumps of sugar
That meant ‘an occasion.’ The friends beside
Them smile too, sparkle at the camera’s
Attention, have settled their folded hands,
Turning the energy of pale arms
Into the dark warmth of their palms.

Later, the prettiest one was called crazy
Because she shaved her head bald,
Unable to have what she craved, stylish curls,
Elusive power. Later still, her husband’s
Passing admiration of another woman’s coat
Became a monument to her rage.
The rest of the women stayed tranquil as Valium.
But she, extreme to the end, took one step further
And drank weed-killer.