I was 11 when my Great Grandfather died. He was my Nana’s father and was what used to be called ‘a gentleman’ and indeed he was a gentle man. This poem is about the times I used to go and stay at his little room and kitchen in Hood Street, Riccarton in Kilmarnock with my mother or my grandmother. I can remember the smell of the scullery and wee front room with the pipe smoke but I also remember the warmth and love that wrapped me up and kept me safe while I was there. I had such love from my Mum’s family and I believe it is that love that somehow managed to keep me alive through my life when I have not wanted to be alive. I think my Mum and her loving family lit a fire inside me which has sustained me through the hell that was life with my father. I hope I have conveyed the love in this little poem.
I watch the fire from the safety of the bed recess.
I am in a den on a fat sink-into mattress
warm and drifting under soft white sheets
blankets and slippery eiderdown.
The long-case clock ticks and tocks
a muffled pulse, setting the rhythm
while the fire hisses and pops.
The night is musical in this room.
On a stage of coal red and orange dancers
try to keep time with the beat
but the ticking and tocking is too fixed
and I am hypnotised
by the dancers flickering movements.
There is beauty in the shifting shadows on the walls
and I am lullabyed to sleep.
This is my Great Grandfather’s home
where he lives alone.
He smokes a white clay pipe with a lid
and takes me to his Club just down the road
where I am introduced as Our Mary’s Granddaughter
and I am important as I sit with the old men
who smile and nod and pat me on the head.
I eat crisps and drink orange juice
and hold his hand as we walk home.
I cannot recall the conversations
but I remember my importance
and the music and the dance.