Ghosts of Christmas Present

My beautiful mother
has been crying over the past for 35 years.

When I was knee-high,
I asked her to explain when the past begins.
"Now", she said. "Now, now, now, now."
"Isn't that the present?"

A pause for thought. "No."


Today, the arrogance of youth sleeps.
"Are these cranberries properly mashed?"
I ask, seeking maternal reassurance.

Mother carries on weeping like a scene
from Carry On Weeping.
"Is that a genuine Carry On film?"

She can't respond. Too many memories.


At the seat of the room they all wear masks.
We laugh because it's polite —
"You look like Marie Antoinette!"
"Ha ha! Let them eat Christmas cake!"

"She never said that you know."
"Yes she did. She's famous for it."
"No, it's a misquote. One of history's little faux pas."


"Anyway. . . Quality Street?"

Lucy points to a large sign above the bar —
"But it's Christmas!"
"Yes, but everyone here is a chocoholic."

Luckily, I'd hidden a Wispa in my bag.
No one need ever know.


Two bowls of untouched cranberry sauce.

The punch lacks kick and we all know why.
Somebody can't find any work.
Somebody is approaching a nervous breakdown.

"I'm having a nervous breakdown."
So that was the future, leaping red-faced
into the present.