Camera Obscura

by Simon Armitage

Eight-year-old sitting in Bramhall’s field,
shoes scuffed from kicking a stone,
too young for a key but old enough now
to walk the short mile back from school.

You’ve spied your mother down in the village
crossing the street, purse in her fist.
In her other hand her shopping bag
nurses four ugly potatoes caked in mud,

a boiling of peas, rags of meat or a tail of fish
in greaseproof paper, the price totted up
in pencilled columns of shillings and pence.
How warm must she be in that winter coat?

On Old Mount Road the nearer she gets the smaller she shrinks,
until you reach out to carry her home on the flat of your hand
or your fingertip, and she doesn’t exist.