The House That Alf Built

Someday a girl
will pick up a rabbit,
soft as her grandmother’s blusher brush.
Her little fingers will stroke
the hard triangle of his nose,
brush backwards to reveal
the clotted cream hair underneath.
She will ask us, “Have you had one?”
Us, a seawall
of parental responsibility.

We’ll remember migrainous carpets,
the rabbit honking, running in circles.
The time he fell;
his grotesque heave across the floor,
pulling his legs uselessly behind him.
We sat against the sofa under our duvet,
waiting for him to pull his legs up, hop.
We watched the weak yellow moon
roll across the sky
like a slice of onion
swept into a bin.

We’ll remember the winter on benefits,
frost and shame creeping into our purses
and in the bed between us.
Tinned tomatoes done posh
and applying for job, after job, after job.
Eyeing him with growing resentment,
as animal innocence festers
to wilful ignorance.
We’ll remember summers on the roof
above the sari shop.
Sagging felt barely holding us and our flowerpots.
You sunbathe, and I clip lavender.
I am sure this time I will dry it
and make something useful.

The street smells of sweet shisha smoke,
garlic, meat and something human and sour.
The street is noisy, but no one can see us.
You peel off your top and roll over.
I am envious of your skin, the way
it soaks up the heat like a terracotta pot.
Inside, he is stretched out. Golden fur and
whiskers slowly twitching.
Someday a girl will ask us if we’ve ever had a rabbit,
“Yes,” we’ll say.
and remember laying our foundations.

Rachel Simons is a Welsh writer and artist. She grew up near the sea but now uses Roath Park Lake to get her fix of water-watching. By day, she works in the voluntary sector with people who are homeless or vulnerably housed.

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