Sorting Through

Sorting Through
The moment she died, my mother’s dance dresses
turned from the colours they really were
to the colours I imagine them to be.
I can feel the weight of bumptoed silver shoes
swinging from their anklestraps as she swaggers
up the path towards her dad, light-headed
from airman’s kisses. Here, at what I’ll have to learn
to call my father’s house, yes every 
ragbag scrap of duster prints her even more vivid
than an Ilford snapshot on some seafront
in a white cardigan and that exact frock.
Old lipsticks. Liquid stockings.
Labels like Harella, Gor-ray, Berketex.
As I manhandle whole outfits into binbags for Oxfam
every mote in my eye is a utility mark
and this is useful:
the sadness of dispossessed dresses,
the decency of good coats roundshouldered
in the darkness of wardrobes,
the gravitas of lapels,
the invisible danders of skin fizzing off from them
like all that life that will not neatly end.
Liz Lochhead

from A Choosing: The Selected Poems of Liz Lochhead (Polygon, 2011).

Reproduced by permission of Polygon, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd
Liz Lochhead

Appointed Scots Makar – the National Poet for Scotland – from 2011 to 2016, Liz Lochhead is both transgressive and popular; as Anne Varty wrote, ‘her work is that of one woman speaking to many,  and one person speaking for many’.


Read more about this poet