Dance Halls, Air Raid Shelters and the Nursing Home Sitting Room

Rhiannon Willson

We pick the shade together.

After careful consideration

of the sea of pinks and reds

and sparkling silver, we almost

always decide on pink (silver

is saved for special occasions).

An hour of our day set aside

just for this, careful strokes

of the brush, your hands warm

under my cool fingers, the ripples

of your wrinkled skin next to the

smoothness of mine. I paint

your nails. Slowly, carefully,

holding on to you so you

don’t pull away and smudge them,

so I don’t lose you. We sit there

and wait for the first coat to dry,

then the second. I will tell you

about my friends and you will ask

if I’ve been courting, tell me stories

of your time in the dance hall with

the man who would become your

husband, become the father of your

six children, become the love of your

life. The twenty year old girl in the

dance hall in a blue dress with pink

nails does not know she will wish

the handsome boy who takes her hand

goodnight every evening, even when

he is fifteen years dead. The ninety

year old woman in front of me winks

as she tells me about the abandoned

air raid shelter she visited once with

the boy who took her hand. I paint

her nails every week. Just to hold

her hand. Just to hear the stories.

 

Rhiannon Willson is a poet from Wales with a BA in English. She writes mostly about the people she loves and spends her spare time playing scrabble with old ladies and trying to learn how to rollerskate. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Dreams Walking, 5050 Lit and The Honest Ulsterman, among others. She can be found on twitter @rhiannonwillson and on instagram @rhiawillson.