And did you miss your roses
once they'd been uprooted? Unappealing prospect: falling
headlong into thorns, a mushroom cloud of petals
panicked shrieks tearing scars
on a grandson's reddening cheeks.
Wooden pegs as soldiers; dens
in the attic, mine made by you; cold
custard on a footstool on Wednesday afternoons.
Do you remember?
And do you remember brushing the marble
scattering soot into every nook
crook and cranny of an ancient rug?
Your glasses were missing
presumed lost, sunk
by a U-boat in the wintry Atlantic
of the sofas cushioned depths.
And the two of us sitting
surrounded by frost
and the ghosts of the early morning mist.
And are we still there?
In hat and scarf waiting for the warmth
teaching me Anders and Gabriel
the engine refusing to start
because you've tried to keep me warm.
So as we walk you teach me
not to shuffle my feet as I drag them in late
and how to read your wrist
a somnambulant child
stewing, steaming beneath a tea cosy
taking little steps, being taught time
and love and patience. Do you remember now?
when I saw the dog at your feet and knew
you were taking me to the end of the earth
on foot. My face when you let me
make up the rules. Do you remember
the first time I talked back
(also the last)
and the apology you kept tucked
against the sepias of my distants
too precious to be scrapped
with the weddings and obits?
Do you remember how many times
you told me how well I'd done?
rising to your feet and clinging
to my shoulders? when it got harder
to breathe? how it felt to walk
and not get tired? And did you know
the rest? And do you know? And did you miss
what went unsaid?
And do you miss it all now? Or are you there
in your workshop
with the willful smell of creosote
and the endless tools and a little boy
standing on a stool against your chest
smiling as you hold him close
-'and do you know?
Do you know your Grandad loves you?'