This is what she left, this jetsam:
Four bare rooms, populated with echoes
Because the carpets were all taken
And a toilet with no seat;
Ten rubbish sacks, plastic, black, piled
On the bare lino, a broken bed, some china
Half a dozen houseplants, dying in their turn.
All that was left of eighty-two years of life.
But this also she left: my sister's jaw,
My mother's face when not amused;
A love of honesty, a reputation
For strength and selfless generosity;
A host of stories about relatives I never met,
A hundred small kindnesses and pleasures;
A family, and all that family means.
The rooms weren't empty after all:
We were there, all of us were there.
When my grandmother was young, she said
The traffic in their part of town was pretty bad
Not private transport - that was for the rich -
But cabs, and grocers' vans, that sort of thing,
And the children had to be careful when they played
In the street, of the wheels and the horses' stamping feet.
Horses, Nan ? Yes love, she smiled and said.
It was all horse drawn, and we lived by a stables.
I remember that shock of strangeness, two people
Meeting across a gulf of years; and she
A traveller in time who had known
A carless London, whose uncle fought for the Raj.
She could sort out the scoring when we played mah-jong,
And add up shopping prices without a calculator;
She could navigate the tangle of our distant
Relatives, and tell the story of why
Great Grandma Nixon refused so long to die.
Now she is dead herself, and so it is for us
To remember these things, in our turn, as best we can;
Adding her name with care to the histories that we
Carry in our heads, and open, now and then, to show
The children the strange worlds of long ago.
Created with Sseyo Koan X Platinum for the AWE 64 soundcard. All intellectual rights in these compositions remain the property of Paul Blake.