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A typical 1940s brown leather suitcase, belonging to the Hymers family and destined for 'The 1940s House' in West Wickham, Kent.      Date: 1940s (re-enactment)
The draper


“The town is dead

Nothing but the wind

Howling down Main Street

And a calf bawling

Outside The Fiddlers”


My mother’s words, not mine

In a letter, kept in a drawer

These long years

She had a way with words

My mother


That’s why they came

The faithful of her following

Leaning in to her over the counter

For an encouraging word

Or the promise of a novena


Long before we had

Local radio

Our town had my mother

Harbinger of the death notices

And the funeral arrangements


Bestower of colloquial wisdom

Bearer of news on all things

Great and small

Who was home

And who hadn’t come


Who had got the Civil Service job

And by what bit of pull

The Councillor’s niece

Smug in her new navy suit

Oblivious to the circulating countersuit


“Would you ever think of coming home?”

Her words would catch me


Lips poised at the edge

Of a steaming mug


Igniting a spitfire

Of resentment each time

Then draping me for days

I’d wear it like a horsehair shirt

All the way back


Until the sunshine and the hustle

Had worn it threadbare

This extra bit of baggage

In every emigrant’s case

Their mother’s broken heart


I never thought to ask her

“Would you want me to…?

So I could look out at the rain

Circumnavigating the empty street

And shiver at the wind

Whipping in under the door…?”


I don’t miss that question now

On my annual pilgrimage ‘home’

My father never asks it

Like me, I know he feels it

Hanging in the air

Alongside her absence


I miss my mother

And her way with words



© Anne Casey, first published in The Irish Times (January 2016), also published in where the lost things go (Salmon Poetry, 2017)

Picture 10147920, photograph by Simon Roberts, 1940s re-enactment



Irish-Australian Anne Casey is author of where the lost things go (Salmon Poetry, 2017); a second poetry collection is forthcoming from Salmon in 2019. Over a 25-year career she has worked as a journalist, magazine editor, communications director and legal author. Anne is Senior Poetry Editor of Other Terrain and Backstory literary journals (Swinburne University, Melbourne). Her writing and poetry rank in The Irish Times newspaper’s Most-Read. She has won or been shortlisted for poetry prizes in Ireland, Northern Ireland, the USA, the UK, Canada and Australia, including the Alice Sinclair Memorial Poetry Prize 2018 (Australia, 1st Place); the Women’s National Book Association Poetry Competition 2018 (USA, 3rd Place); Fellowship of Australian Writers Queensland Literary Competition 2018 (Australia); Hennessy New Irish Writing 2015 and 2017 (Ireland); Cúirt International Poetry Prize 2017 (Ireland); and Bedford International Writing Competition 2017 (UK). Her poems feature internationally in newspapers, magazines, journals, anthologies, podcasts, music albums, stage shows and art exhibitions – Entropy, apt, The Irish Times, Cordite, The Murmur House, Quiddity, Papaya Press, The Incubator, The Honest Ulsterman, The Stony Thursday Book, The Australian Poetry Collaboration, Into The Void Magazine, Autonomy anthology, Plumwood Mountain, Abridged and Verity La, among others.