Mum with Sword

by Jack Nicholls

My mum carries a sword now. You misunderstand me. My mum
carries a sword now. My mum has a long, solemn sword

swinging behind her when she turns to put the birdseed
in the feeder. It is very strange seeing my mum on the settee

holding her four-foot bastard sword. I don’t want to talk
about the pheasants stalking round the garden singing for grapes.

I am still getting used to my mum’s new sword. If I am truthful,
I am not ready to be addressing my mum’s sword

in a poem. Currently, I am not fit for work, and though I can self-certify
for a few poems, soon I will have to have a proper, proper chat with myself.

You might wonder what my mum’s new sword looks like,
or if there is medieval detailing on the scabbard

that a healthy poem would illuminate. Picturing my mum as a
lovely woman with cool specs and smart dyed hair,

as she is, you might wonder how she bears the weight of the thing.
Is she struggling? Are veins cording her biceps? Will her cardie snag

and balled tissues come tumbling from the sleeve? You might wonder
why, when I’m wholly aware that I must satisfy you of my health, my capacity

to perform my duties, when I know that you may terminate my contract
if you choose, why I have doodled a sword on a soggy, salty napkin.

Friends, I couldn’t stop shouting in the garden.
This isn’t easy for you either. Stick to the rules:

you’re allowed to now pronounce me arsehole out of earshot
and I’m allowed to trail long smears of cold cream on the castle walls,

and blink like an alien into a tall Gothic mirror, and feel as empty as
a plastic yellow birdseed scoop. My mum poured it

into my hand and the pheasants came running, and, though wild
and wanting other things, they ate, just like she said they would,

they fed from the flat of my hand. My mum’s sword was drawn, crudely,
and lay amongst the daisies. It looked solemn. It looked long.

It looked like a sword. I looked at it and I wrote sword. Friends,
take me tightly in both hands and swing.