Carolyn Oulton

Shaggy Dog Story for Teenagers

That living for the moment
meant I wasn’t surprised
by the state of your bedroom,
Melissa. Tom, I haven’t
opened your window. I’m not
promising anything.
Just so you know.

Soon you’ll start to judge
people and things
you weren’t asked to (at least
going by my diary, or the boy
who asked in that Now I’ve lost
all respect for you way)
how I could show it as history.

One day June, by now
in a care home,
will tell a stranger
she never helped her mother
(which can’t be true).
That she played in the woods
(which almost certainly is).

Sylvia we know will jump
seventy years post war
at the sound of a bell.
She will perhaps forget
saying this. In the end
she will close her eyes,
wake when I stop reading.

But boy who patronised me,
children of my own
actually using words
that belonged to us first –
I’ll tell you something.
[This is the one that ends,
I can’t tell you yet, because]…


Carolyn Oulton teaches Creative Writing at Canterbury Christ Church University. She is also a Victorianist and rescuer of obscure books that were probably never intended to survive. Her most recent poetry collection Accidental Fruit is published by Worple.