Liz Lochhead - The Choosing

We were first equal Mary and I
with the same coloured ribbons in mouse-coloured hair,
and with equal shyness
we curtseyed to the lady councillor
for copies of Collinsís Children Classics.
First equal, equally proud.

Best friends too Mary and I
a common bond in being cleverest (equal)
in our small schoolís small class.
I remember
the competition for top desk
or to read aloud the lesson
at school service.
And my terrible fear
of her superiority at sums.

I remember the housing scheme
Where we both stayed.
The same house, different homes,
where the choices were made.

I donít know exactly why they moved,
but anyway they went.
Something about a three-apartment
and a cheaper rent.
But from the top deck of the high school bus
Iíd glimpse
among the others on the corner
Maryís father, mufflered, contrasting strangely
with the elegant greyhounds by his side.
He didnít believe in high school education,
especially for girls,
or in forking out for uniforms.

Ten years later on a Saturday-
I am coming home from the library-
sitting near me on the bus,
with a husband who is tall,
curly haired, has eyes for no one else but Mary.
Her arms are round the full-shaped vase
that is her body.
Oh, you can see where the attraction lies
in Maryís life-
not that I envy her, really.

And I am coming from the library
with my arms full of books.
I think of the prizes
that were ours for the taking
and wonder when the choices got made
we donít remember making.

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