Outing 1964

by Hilary Jupp

Sixty beds, some with lockers, some shared,
they’d little to call their own on the ward for the disturbed.
A handful were chosen, issued frocks, hospital knickers,
coat pockets filled with toffee caramels.
Spotless, these women, entertained by clowns and high trapeze,
sat in awe as vast beasts not seen before trundled in,
to delicately compose themselves, debutantes,
at the raised rim of the ring. On the edge of their seats
the women clapped and clapped. Transported they stood,
continued their applause, on and on into an empty ring.
Then, with swift agile grace, as if tethered
each to the other in their own line,
the women were gone.
Darkness came, the crowd dwindled home,
but these women, ensconced, gazed through the wire
at continents of ears, at crumpled hides.
Coaxed with promises of hot sweet tea and buns
the women let themselves be led back to the bus,
leaving their presents of toffee caramels
stuck to the wire.