Every month a ritual enactment
For the rent man
Mother, floury nose and doughed-up hands,
Smiling practice-perfect
Us children banished to the scullery,
A whispered ‘don’t you laugh now’
A silent prayer
And the teapot ready
Beside the rent book.

Every month ‘good morning Mrs Moran’
Lovely day to be sure’ and
YesI will have a cup of tea, thank you’
And every month a glowing red nose,
Lit up like a hot coal.

Every month silence from the scullery
Until the day little Tommy fell off his perch
And tumbled through the scullery door
To land in a heap in front
Of that illuminated face.
And then mother turning,
The sugar bowl in her hand
Saying – much too casually –
‘How many sugars would you like on your nose?’

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