She woke up old at last, alone, bones in a bed, not a tooth in her head, half dead, shuffled and limped downstairs in the rag of her nightdress, smelling of pee. Slurped tea, stared at her hand--twigs, stained gloves-- wheezed and coughed, pulled on the coat that hung from a hook on the door, lay on the sofa, dozed, snored. She was History. She'd seen them ease him down from the Cross, his mother gasping for breath, as though his death was a difficult birth, the soldiers spitting, spears in the earth; been there when the fisherman swore he was back from the dead; seen the basilicas rise in Jerusalem, Constantinople, Sicily; watched for a hundred years as the air of Rome turned into stone; witnessed the wars, the bloody crusades, knew them by date and by name, Bannockburn, Passchendaele, Babi Yar, Vietnam. She'd heard the last words of the martyrs burnt at the stake, the murderers hung by the neck, seen up-close how the saint whistled and spat in the flames, how the dictator strutting and stuttering film blew out his brains, how the children waved their little hands from the trains. She woke again, cold, in the dark, in the empty house. Bricks through the window now, thieves in the night. When they rang on her bell there was nobody there; fresh graffiti sprayed on her door, shit wrapped in a newspaper posted onto the floor.
From Feminine Gospels by Carol Ann Duffy. Copyright © 2003 by Carol Ann Duffy. Published in April 2003 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.