Mrs Gilhooly, Dancing
by Neil Leadbeater

Every so often she climbs the stair. She goes to birl,
          to fit the flair,
to wind the gramophone on an upright chair,
and lilts full throttle through her bobs and reels,
her chicken vocals bleating peals
in the raw November air.

Ill-setten and gawkit,
her man lies hoose-fast in the downstairs room
thowless as a dead wind.

Once, when they were young,
she tried to make him dance. That way he
astonished himself
in his long-quartered town-mades, one een a-gley
in the full-length glass. Even then
he could not do it. His wooden feet
weighed like clay and would not yield to the floor.
Inhibition checked him. It held him in his track.
So she had this fling in secret, a quiet
which she did behind his back.

Pale-lipped and happer-ars’d
she skilts round the running room. The recollection
of jumbled steps falls from her feet by chance:
a hotchpotch of gallops which the years have slowed
to a thin patter of rain.

Young at heart, she descends the stair -
an old woman who has no shame.

Gently she will take his hand and warm it in her own.
She is giddy with jigging in the upstairs room
and sad to feel alone.


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