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.

Kilmarnock

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.

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