‘Afterthought’ by Marie Naughton


And what if –– go on, you’ve seen those films ––
what if on one particular January morning this man
no, this boy, what if, when this boy approaches the main road
and reaches in his pocket for his phone he remembers
fuckit, the fiver to cover the cost of his DaySaver
still on the kitchen table where three hours earlier
she’d positioned it carefully under the toast rack.

What if he ambles back to the house, sticks the key in the lock,
that small ritual like a reflex, on hold all these months
while he’s been teaching football to twelve-year-olds
in the States, and lets himself in, to that unmistakable
smell of home –– clean clothes on an airer, fresh sawdust
in the hamster’s cage, the vase of stargazer lilies
splitting into bloom on the sunny windowsill.

While he’s sliding the note in his wallet, what if she arrives
in the hall, back for an early lunch, hopeful
to catch her eldest before he sets off on the job-hunt,
and presses him to have a cuppa simply so she can savour
the pleasure of seeing him in her kitchen again, before
he pulls on the pale blue hoody that by teatime tomorrow
everyone in the district will recognise, and zips it up to his chin

laughing out loud as she hugs him like she won’t let go,
breathing in the lambswool warmth
of his newly-tanned neck, then volunteering
to give him a lift to the bus-stop, and they drive past
all the landmarks like they used to on the school run ––
the library where young mums still push buggies into the playgroup,
the swimming pool where he started his collection of badges.

Slowing, to let him jump out at the bus shelter
which you’d not imagine wreathed in blue and white tape,
what if she mutters dammit, things are quiet
in the office, I’ll drop you in town
and changing up to third, slides back into the line
of cars that file past the CCTV camera
perched like a sparrowhawk above the Tesco Express.

And at that interview, what if the boy lands the job
flipping burgers and before taking up the place
at Nottingham Trent, puts enough money in the bank
to spend the last five weeks of his gap year
on an adventure with a mate from college
hitching from beach to beach up the Capricorn Coast
and snorkelling on the reefs off Australia’s eastern seaboard.
(published in The Dark Horse 31 Autumn/Winter 2013).

Marie Naughton’s poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies including Mslexia, The Dark Horse, Southword, Lines Underwater and Her Wings of Glass. Others have been placed in competitions and she won the Cafe Writers competition in 2012. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the Centre for New Writing at Manchester University. She is a psychotherapist and a counsellor in a high school. She lives in Manchester. Read more poems by Marie Naughton here and here.