On Saturdays father wrote sermons

by Jacky Tarleton

Dressed up in gowns and furs
two sisters in the attic
tear Church Times into squares
the size of postage stamps.
 
Cross-legged under the table,
high heels tied on with odd ribbons,
they stir the enamel bowl
with a charred wooden spoon.
 
When the papier mâché is dry
they stuff it in cardboard tubes
to make rolling pin cigars,
then kneel in the disused fireplace
 
and smoke them, sparking the soot,
till strangers knock at the door.
Father descends from his study
in shirt-sleeves with ink-stained fingers
 
still wearing his dog-collar.
The strangers point up at the chimney:
father stands, neck back, in the garden,
mouth open, watching the flames.