Eczema drawstring round the wrist. Strangling softness vacuum dry. Peel and smelling of lotions rubbed on. Red itch. A strap of concrete and lime. White scaled to the back of her hand. Veins to mole full stop. Exclamation mark. Fingers echoing charged with sandwiches layered for school and work. Nail chip stone, unpolished gems flecked with white quartz. Tips sawmill tipped by days of cleaning. Taut with bleach, cleaners and French polish aerosol. Seconds washed away. I sense their isolation. Knuckles raw with someone else’s work. And in the open palm, a dream. Washed tiny as a flint. Lodged in the cracks of motherhood.
White sliced bread, thin as skin. Buttered factory wholesale from breadboard to worktop. Worktop to breadboard. Wiped. Thin sliced honey roast ham folded pink waves. Peel lid sucks open. A kiss. Layer into soldier sandwiches. Salad from a bag. Fast fingers separating wilted leaves from fast fresh. Wrapped in experienced cling film. A silvery offering packed into lunchbox estate. Individually addressed: husband, daughters and son. Hand pluck chocolate biscuit treats hidden overhead shelf. Magician. Drink carton. Cheese. Lids snap closed into fridge.
Work surface wash. Breadboard wash. Cutlery spares into dishwasher grin. Hands wash again. Again.
Carla in the back seat, sandwich in hand, picking out ham. Rachael in the booster seat, fingers like a surgeon in doll’s eyes. Glove box closed on nappies, wipes, towels, warm water, plasters and empty bubble-pop ibuprofen. A checked shirt on the drivers seat and a yellow duster ironed flat by buttocks listen to children bubbling in the back. A rubber ball rolls beneath driver’s seat. A sock thrown. Plastic toy scatter. Broken action man.
“Carla don’t do that.”
The boot pressed closed on a gutful of buggies and bikes. Cleaning boxes, pine fresher, and chlorine cloths. Life cycle.
We scroll out of the car park. A fairy swinging from the rear view mirror. Pink fluff, sparkle wand. White tutu magic.
“Sorry I didn’t call you yesterday afternoon.”
Penelope is always sorry.
I imagine her as a woodlouse. Quiet and apologetic. Pressed between rocks.
“Rachael had to go to ballet early and Carl had to be dropped off at his Nan’s.”
I wonder what shape she really is. Outside this life of children, school runs, hoovering and infinite wiping.
“By the time I got back I was already late making everyone’s lunches.”
Ephemeral, a curvaceous sprite curled into a nest of brown paper leaves. Without routine and space. Artistic burst of colour beading on her skin.
“So have you got anything planned for the weekend?”