Thursday 4 December 2014

New poem: Museums

My mother loved museums. She said that the

Bethnal Green Museum saved her. I didn’t know

what it saved her from. My father swore in

Yiddish. My mother said, ‘Don’t say that!’

I said, ‘What did he say?’

‘It sounds like my uncles in the back room,’ she

said, ‘they were playing gin rummy.’

‘What’s gin rummy?’ I said.

In one museum we went to, she saw a sampler.

A nine year old girl had embroidered it hundreds

of years ago. After that, we could be having tea

and my mother would look up and say, ‘Let self-

sacrifice be its own reward.’

I said, ‘What’s self-sacrifice?’

My father went out the room. We heard him


My mother said, ‘Ask your father what he’s doing

and tell him to stop it.’

There was a typhoid outbreak in south America.

On the news, they said, ‘Don’t eat the corned

beef. The corned beef comes from south America.

Don’t eat the corned beef.’

My mother went to the cupboard. It was stacked

up with corned beef tins. She took one out.

‘Better not open that till the typhoid outbreak’s

over,’ she said.