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The Million Women Minus One

1 Minute Read

I’ve lost their latest questionnaire, along

with its covering letter, thanking me for my

previous entries which have informed

their research so they could inform me of all

the risks I have taken, based on my consumption

of alcohol, twenty years of smoking


and the size of my waistline. I remember

filling it in; sealing the freepost envelope –

would anyone return it if it wasn’t free?

I remember seeing it on the front seat

of the car – a reproachful shade of white,

waiting to be posted, its later disappearance


a mystery. That they will miss my data is certain;

how else will they know that a woman of my age

can still be sexually active; though her liver

may be ballooning in secret, or becoming sclerotic,

and her brain about to atrophy on more

than the recommended units per day?


I want to throw a party and invite all the other

million women who simply break

every rule and rejoice; who lose the damn

questionnaire down the backs of their sofas;

who bin it without even bothering to fill it out,

who leave it behind in their lovers’ cars.

If I Cannot

1 Minute Read

have first kisses again in the way
they only hint at what is possible
with slow tongues that are sleepy,
breathless with promise, and if I cannot
reclaim the first whisper of silk stockings,
of silk panties, the pulling on,
the sliding off and feel my hair all wild again,
snaking down my back, or set loose
in the breeze, tangled, unruly, startling
the face, taking it by surprise; from the front,
from behind, then I will settle for being
the crone poet – the famous crone poet.

I will want to recline on my velvet chaise,
to be Delphic, oracular, to dispense wisdom
with artful generosity, laced with innuendo,
to the crowd of sycophantic young bloods,
all smooth and articulate, who will gather
at my feet – especially the handsomest,
with their beckoning hands, their mouths
honeyed with admiration for my faded beauty,
my still-agile brain, murmuring sweetly,
moving closer in the evening workshop whirl,
their predatory clip boards tossed aside.

I will unlock my box of stored up fantasies
and scatter them like rose-petal confetti,
allowing the lads to bestow kisses on my hands,
regal and be-ringed, to stir the blood that still
pumps hot beneath the tissue paper skin.
I will want to feel their fresh lips on my
well-mapped cheeks, to open myself
to their insouciant patter, after the meal,
after the wine, after the creamy sweet,
and jeans – just a bit too tight, I will want
to savour the cool moisture of the last kiss
good night as it dries on my lips.

Red Toenails in April

1 Minute Read

A woman who’s painting her toenails red in April
is not resigned to the moment; she’s thinking ahead
to summer, adventure, escape from tiresome routines.
Otherwise why keep dabbing with the wayward brush,
the unruly varnish, her hand less steady than before?
It might be desperation because time is running out,
and the bottle is nearly empty.

A woman who’s painting her toenails red in April
has not given up; she intends to keep her options
open; to soldier on through the rigours of ageing.
Otherwise why would she, knowing no one is likely
to notice her efforts, sit perched on the toilet seat,
her feet propped on the bidet, wielding that wayward
brush while periwinkles bloom in the woods?

A woman who’s painting her toenails red in April dreads
the threat of the magnifying mirror no longer steamed up
when she’s towelled dry after her long soak. Otherwise
why would she dream of absconding, of buying a ticket
to Yakutsk or Sumatra? That woman could be digging
her way out of snowdrifts, while her feet stay warm
elsewhere — to the end, running wild.

Wendy Klein

US-born Wendy Klein left forever in 1964 and gypsied around Europe as a single mum, coming to rest in England in 1971.  A retired psychotherapist, she believes in the healing properties of dogs and dancing and hopes to be humanely destroyed if she is deprived of either. She is about to publish her third collection, Mood Indigo (Oversteps Books). She has won many poetry prizes and been widely published from Smiths Knoll to The Frogmore Papers.

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