I knew a woman who may still be a woman
but I don’t think so for she must be almost dead
if she isn’t already and it seems we lose our gender
when no longer.  If not in the way of our common description
then at least in our physical activities most certainly.

The last I heard and for many years
she left her house and her family behind
to go out walking on the London streets
feeling better that way in her own particular madness
as we would probably understand it to be
because the house and family she walked away from
were both perfectly lovely.

As a child some Sundays we would drive for an hour
and have tea with her and her husband and their daughter
I was perhaps twelve, the daughter ten and normal.

After eating at any time of day the mother always insisted
her child go to the downstairs bathroom
(they were wealthy it seemed to me)
and clean her teeth very carefully.
Obsession as an exhibition of control
although the daughter didn’t seem to mind.

Years later when we were grown and I heard that the mother
was now that unusual thing, voluntarily homeless,
it felt obvious to connect the teeth and her nature
but I still felt sorry about it all, as we do in our decency.
I would very much like to see that mouth however.
Still clean or ruined like my own?

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