sitting sideways onto
        the drop-leaf table
        locked between the legs

        writing an essay
        shaping a poem
        noting a book

        in the clean blue-green
        kitchen I found
        I can do this
        I can make this work:

        “did you know that discretely
          unrelated events can be
          meaningfully synchronised
          by unconscious desire?”

        my Nan finished off the parsnip
        and reached for the first brussel sprout
                without pause
        tip of her tongue not quite touching
                her upper lip
        the corners of her mouth hung
                a smile

        she’d heard




I asked my Nan to write down her memoirs when she was in her early seventies.    She worked at it for quite a time and produced a single piece of work about brushing her sister’s hair.    It was written in the small well-formed handwriting which she had been taught at school.    I had wanted her to produce hundreds of such pieces which I would edit into a magnificent story of a life worked through the 20th century but she produced no more.    Which was perfect:


                standing in the pre-War bedroom
                              dark with dark-wood furniture
                             dark clothes ready curtains half open
                             dressed with lace and bottles and boxes
                                     for every occasion
                at the dressing table brushing through
                              her elder sister’s hair each brushful gathering
                              streams deep and even shallows spread and even
                              some caught and knotted
                                      hold it apart and brush it through
                              each pull drawing back her forehead
                                      brow held relaxed for a second
                                      ears drawn jaw loosed for a second
                hair decades long reaching down to her calves
                              in the end all pulled through
                                      step back smell of scalp





                                                                                  a mouth of tea
                                                                           a line of carrots already done
                                                                    now the parsnip






                                              the sun
                     on the walls and plants, my grandmother
                     in the garden, thinking
                     quietly, the coloured laundry
                     on the kitchen clothes-horse







                                                                                 my grandmother’s
                                                                                 multi-coloured patchwork gown;
                                                                                 she climbed the garden steps
                                                                                           at night
                                                                                 and stood in the garden

                                                                                           in the morning
                                                                                 the sun was on the leaves
                                                                                 and glinted on the mug of tea
                                                                                 she’d been drinking




                                                            through the
                                                            open door

                                my grandmother
                                stands in the sunny garden


                                she walks through the long grass

                                by blue slippers,
                                the mist on her back,
                                she crouches







                                                        – stripping six layers of paint
                                                                  – stripping layers of paint off the drawers
                                                                  – working through the paint
                                                                            – on the drawers
                                            – going back through time
                                                      – history of decoration
                                            – family furniture
                                  – of the chest of drawers
                                – my Nan’s wedding furniture
                                – through time
                                          – finding the grain
                                – used to be petrified under a glass top
                                – back through time there
                                            – haven’t seen that pattern
                      for forty years
            – I find my Nan in the grain






                                carefully working
            back through the paint on the drawers
                      where I find my Nan





     spent the morning
            many parts of London kept noticing
     Allen Ginsberg
            on a bus
                     in a shop
                           crossing the road
            slightly hunched busy
            carrying papers in a wallet
                     maybe shopping
            ordinary tired clothes
     as I keep on seeing him
            maybe I could give him my poems
                     to look at maybe I should
            all of them all five hundred
                           no just some of them

     late afternoon            I am walking
            down Eglinton Hill melting ice-cream light
                     some satisfaction with the day and
                           cream soda
     slowly with my Nan – getting old chatting
            feels like walking with Charlotte
     ahead are cars
            one indicating right to pull out
                     another waiting just behind
                           indicating left he’ll take his place
     both waiting for another coming uphill
                           right of way complicated
            how this all happens
     another car slows downhill
            before the uphill one has still to pass
            he wants to park too but
                     he’d narrow the road cars parked
                           right and left
     he rolls further down and parks on the right
                           much more space
            opposite number 46
                           I wonder if Allen
            is in the car
                     the car is medium blue
                           a good ten years old
                                     tired but working
            filled with stuff only room for the driver I think
     yes it’s Allen getting out of the car
            does he live here
     Nan asks if Assiki is in Malta
            I don’t know but say I think so
                     Allen hears and nods yes
            as we pass – that is where Joe
                     or Jon have got to now travelling

     go on give him your poems
                     don’t walk past and pretend you’re OK
                           give them
            but I am reticent
                           because I don’t like to ask

     fracture into the breakfast room or the upper kitchen
                           cluttered full of stuff
            space for only one at the table
                           Allen has made some tea
            and sits down to turn the pages
                           of my script




2 thoughts on “nan”

  1. To be sure, I haven’t read all your work, but even if you wrote something epic and famous, these would be my favorites. What a beautiful tribute to your Nan.


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