Art by Sarah Quigley

by Claire Askew

Ask me, I've seen everything -
I've changed the blown-out lightbulbs
of ghosts, emptied the ashtrays
of the dead. I've rifled through drawers,
funeral party in the other room -
collected enough PIN numbers
to pay off a mortgage. I've found

the stashes of secret porn, stuffed
in envelopes with a lock of baby's hair -
the daily train tickets, each one saved
for sixty years. I know the thrill
of a bankroll under a deathbed mattress,
the smell of old lace and gin
and the underwear of grandmothers.

I know to shake out each book, raise dust,
find the pressed-flower keepsakes,
the erotic epistles of old. I know that if
an old drawer sticks, something incendiary
is taped underneath - treasure maps,
wraps of coke, the birth-certificate
of a bastard son, a bomb plot.

They are so keen to cut and run, to cremate -
to dust-sheet and discard these time-capsule homes.
All the shiny things go, tucked into pockets;
they squabble like magpies for cut glass and tin.
I know their secrets, their dynamite,
and their dead - and don't care. I am
a cat-burglar, with my copied keys; clearing.