Mrs Baldwin

By Fleur Adcock

And then there’s the one about the old woman
who very apologetically asks the way
to Church Lane, adding ‘I ought to know:
I’ve lived there since the war’. So you go with her.

This comes with variations, usually leading
(via a list of demented ancestors)
to calculations of how much time you’ve got
before you’re asking the way to your own house.

But it’s not so often that you find the one
about how, whenever you hear of someone
diagnosed with cancer, you have to hide
that muffled pang that clutched you, at fifteen,
when you saw Pauline Edwards holding hands
with the boy from the Social Club you’d always
fancied.