Tuesday in Bracknell

The thin lady at the toddler group
with red marks on her cheeks and neck
looks like she is sleeping poorly
though she does not moan about it.

She is sitting on the floor among the Duplo,
cross-legged in purple lycra.
Leaning towards her child, she says,
“This is real magic.”

I don’t know what she means by that.
Her voice is low, earnest, and sad.
Is it the colour of the sunbeam on the carpet?
Is it the child herself, or something less

obvious? Whatever magic is to her—
that’s not my business. I ask, “Have you
lived here long?” She says she hasn’t.
I say, “Duplo’s very satisfying, isn’t it?”

Later, I pass her near the park—her posture bent
as if the afternoon were a planet of its own,
bearing down its weight upon
her head, the pushchair. The changing bag.

This time I say nothing out of shame—
what could I say or offer—coffee, tea,
an hour’s small talk, an intention
to meet again, a number for support?

Then off she goes on foot. I stay behind
to dissect my guilt. Please, I want to say,
Go get yourself some proof of Otherworlds.
Please find real magic.

Biography: Katherine Meehan lives in Reading. Her poetry has appeared at Bath Magg, The Moth, One Hand Clapping, Ink, Sweat & Tears and others. She's currently working towards her first collection.