Mimi Khalvati


She was an only child but like a sister.
Homa. The sort of person who could melt
your heart unless you hardened it against her.
‘I’ve got a slug, a slug!’ I’d yell and pelt

downhill, stuffing a dead leaf down her shirt.
Homa, so gullible, who never learned
how many hardened hearts there are to hurt
girls who love freely where love isn’t earned.
How her eyes shone! She chattered like a bird.

She tapped out rhythms, tunes for me to guess,
used tomboy nicknames, however absurd.

Homa, so easily reduced to tears
by slights or sins she’d happily confess,
who mothered me through all my heartless years.



These little smiles that fill my eyes with tears
mean nothing really, signals between women
who pass each other on the street as strangers,
as casual friends whose names are now forgotten

or local friends who stop to say hello
at bus stops, coughing little coughs like Lily,
Chinese Lily from Rouge, her shop, but also
English Lily who used to welcome me

by name and I’d respond in rhyme, whose sweet
presence stood at odds with her black Goth gear.
She’s gone to art school now and down the street

Bake Street café isn’t the same without her.
Why tears though? I don’t know – the loneliness
of women’s lives, perhaps, that smiles express.

Mimi Khalvati has published eight collections with Carcanet Press, including Child: New & Selected Poems, a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation, and The Meanest Flower, shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. She has received a Cholmondeley Award, a major Arts Council Writer’s Award and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her most recent collection, The Weather Wheel was a Poetry Book Society Recommend- ation and book of the year in The Independent.