All the men, in their skinny, black ties;
my dad – uncles I’d never met before.
Mum, in her beaver-lamb which stank,
to high heaven, of mothballs. Funny,
how no one ever told me – not outright,
Gramps was dead. They just wept a lot;
spoke about him in the past-tense.
Drew the front-room curtains; sewed
black diamonds on their coat sleeves...
I felt confused...So, where was he –
the one who’d spin me stories? The one
whose lap was the warmest I’d known.
He died of TB, so I learned in later years;
‘hush-hush’, as it was then. I tried
to find him that day; searched high
and low; even in the coal-hole
underneath the stairs.
Went up to Gran’s and his bedroom.
Expected he’d be there – smoothing
his hair, by the window; but no. And so
I climbed right on top of their snow-white
bedspread, buried my face in his pillow,
and my sooty, patent shoes, left
a message, said, ‘Rebecca was here’...
but then, as they said to us, ‘Children
are meant to be seen, and not heard.’