We bent to enter the dark doorway.
Unlike Alice, we knew where everything
was: an old ottoman under the window,
the crooked table with an oil lamp
set to one side, the bureau leaning
in a corner bearing a few enamel plates,
cups made from empty margarine tins;
two metal spoons. We could find with
our eyes shut the one-burner Primus
stove and the “smut-tot” she used
when kerosene oil grew scarce.
It was none of these that kept drawing
us back. It was the piece of canvas
she had hung to separate her living space
from where she slept in her one-room house.
When time and the damp bit chunks
out of her canvas, Miss Lewis filled
the spaces with pictures she had clipped
from magazines and old newspapers:
Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe capsized
us with their brilliant smiles, bright blue eyes
and shiny red lipstick. How we wanted
to be like them, blond hair and all!
John Wayne sported his cowboy hat;
Humphrey Bogart, cigar between
his teeth, starred in a film called
Casablanca; all from a place named
Hollywood, where only the beautiful
lived, and stars shone night and day.
Sir Winston Churchill, hero of World War II
lived in London, just like the Queen.
London was bombed and its bridge was broken.
We hated the horrible Hitler with his strange
mustache. He tortured Jews in something
called the concentration camps.
What passing stranger could have guessed
that in this tiny tumble-down dwelling,
small village children stood, not on a bare
dirt-floor, but tiptoe at the rim of the world.
~ Esther Phillips
Esther Phillips’ publications include ‘When Ground Doves Fly’ (Ian Randle Publishers, 2003) and ‘The Stone Gatherer’ (Peepal Tree Press, 2009). Her poems appear in several anthologies, and her work has recently been recorded for the Poetry Archive, UK. She is a Sunday columnist for the Nation Newspaper and editor of Bim: Arts for the 21st Century. She is the founder of Writers Ink Inc. as well as the Bim Literary Festival & Book Fair. In 2014, her poem ‘Word’ was selected by BBC Scotland to represent Barbados at the Commonwealth Games.