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Thirteen ways to leave your mother


after Paul Simon



We might have stayed longer in the pub

but you popped to the toilet, locked yourself in, climbed

out through the window


We might have shopped till we dropped

but you strolled from the changing rooms in disguise

so I’d not recognise you


We might have wandered the length of the beach

but the tide was in flood, I got stuck in mud,

you kept on walking


We might have learnt how to sketch from life

but you took a line for a walk that led

where I couldn’t follow


We might have had cream teas in a garden

but you set seed and made your escape

down verges and hedgerows


We might have sat out the storm together

but gale force winds came roaring in, sucked you

up through the chimney


We might have spent all day at the zoo

but you set loose the zebras and kangaroos,

hitched a lift on a camel


We might have journeyed to the moon

but the rocket took off too soon, stranding me

on the launch pad


We might have shelled walnuts and baked a cake

but you made a boat with a paper sail

I was too big to fit in


We might have watched cartoons on the telly

but I drew a door in a wall of rock

and you ran through it


We might have held tightly to each other

but I’ve grown old, my hands are cold

you slipped through my fingers


We might have come up with a happy ending

but I lost the words, you found it absurd, the plot

dropped through the grating 


We might have stayed family till the end

but you wrote a message and pressed send, clicked on


Deborah Harvey (she/her) lives in Bristol, UK. She has an MA in Creative Writing and is co-director of The Leaping Word, which provides creative and editorial advice, as well as counselling support for writers exploring the personal in their work. Her sixth poetry collection, Love the Albatross, which explores the theme of estrangement, will be published by Indigo Dreams in 2024:

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