The Way Out by Helen McKinlay

Once I dressed up in your age.

It smelled of mothballs

and was tight

and heavy.


This is how things are I thought

and tried to heave it off

but found myself entangled

in its skirts. 


‘There has to be a way out’ I said.

‘There is’ the devil whispered.


‘Nonsense’ I replied,

 having found at last  the zipper.


And as I flung myself

from this costume

my hands

caught in the air

and found there

trills and sharps

and tintinnabulous vibrations.


So I strung them together

and wound them round

my pale body.

And now I live life as a song

pausing only to take breath

for the high notes.


When my ‘Grandma’ books were first published and I was asked to go and read them I would dress up as Grandma. I would even arrive as Grandma. it was tremendous fun. Once, I was asked to perform at a Senior Citizen’s Christmas do. As per usual, I donned my boiler suit, grey wig etc. However, my minder for the event greeted me as a dear and very old lady, not the spirited and adventurous one I meant to portray.  I felt very deflated and had to work hard to get my character back.

This particular scenario never happened again but it was a good experience and inspired the above poem, which  I was delighted  to have selected for one of The Guardian’s poetry workshops.
I put this on Tuesday Poem about five years ago and decided to re-air it today.