What I remember is walking into
the warm, amber glow, the reassuring
drop and clink of the latch behind me
locking in secrets, kitchen smells
bacon, boot polish, cabbage, a whiff
of drying dogs, trembling black flanks
glossy with rain, steaming by the range
a muddy spoor across the flagstones.
Hung on a hook, my father’s coat
collar five years’ pomade-slick
stiff with his form, wore his bitter spice
the threadbare armchair his impression
and in the larder, the grey March wind
sighed through the flyscreen while
a mail coach galloped round the biscuit tin
low enough to see, too high to reach.
The Bakelite radio played Family Favourites
and Jean Metcalfe read transoceanic hellos
from those remote, crumbling redoubts
Cyprus, Woomera, Hong Kong, Sarawak, the Rhine.
And always, my mother, constant as soil
absorbed with the Bramleys, working
the cinnamon, demerara, butter, flour and oats
crooning along to True Love Ways.
Perched, legs dangling, on a chair by the table
if I craned my neck, I could see the front door
down the hall, a tiny fissure in the mullion
an eye, winking bright, impish, weasel-sly
and again, the bending note of the piccolo wind
shivering me like the crimped puddles in the yard.
If I return one day, perhaps the eye, glinting now
will wear the crinkled edge of my grandmother’s smile.
(For JSB, on his birthday)