What the Uneducated Old Woman Told Me (Christopher Reid)

That she was glad to sit down
That her legs hurt in spite of the medicine
That times were bad.
That her husband had died nearly thirty years before
That the war had changed things,
That the new priest looked like a schoolboy and you could
barely hear him in church.
That pigs were better company, generally speaking, than goats.
That no one could fool her
That both her sons bad married stupid women
That her son-in-law drove a truck
That he had once delivered something to the President’s palace.
That his flat was on the seventh floor and that it made her dizzy
to think of it
That he brought her presents from the black market.
That an alarm clock was of no use to her.
That she could no longer walk to town and back.
That all her friends were dead.
That I should be careful about mushrooms.
That ghosts never came to a house where a sprig of rosemary had
been hung.
That the cinema was a ridiculous invention.
That the modem dances were no good.
That her husband had had a beautiful singing voice, until drink
ruined it.
That the war had changed things.
That she had seen on a map where the war had been fought..
That Hitler was definitely in hell right now.
That children were cheekier than ever
That it was going to be a cold winter, you could tell from the
height of the birds’ nests
That even suit was expensive these days
That she had had a long life and was not afraid of dying.
That times were very bad

Discussion Questions
1. What is the significance of this elderly woman being “uneducated?”
2. What is your impression of this woman’s personality as you read the poem? Is she a serious or a funny person? Is her voice telling of a happy spirit or is there sadness to her tone? Why do you get the impression that you do?
3. Why do you think there is silence from the narrator himself? For the whole poem, he delivers to us the elderly woman’s words, but provides no personal input or reflection.

What do you think?

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