She

Hannah Lowe

She brought me a glass of orange squash each morning
and hers was the strong soothing hand that led me
to school, and left me skipping or hop-scotching
in the still-dark playground, while she drank her coffee
in the staff room. Then later, often, I’d see her
scolding some nervy tearful boy in the hall
and I’d repeat in my head is she my mother? 
hearing her voice come down like the chunky heel

of a boot, stubbing a beetle out.
She is my mother, she is my mother – my mantra
when she grabbed our puppy by his collar
and dragged him from his bed to crush his snout 
in whatever bad thing he hadn’t meant to do.
My mother? She grabbed me by the collar too.