My Grandmother Arrives in the Home Counties


To wind up here of all places,
sometime after the war –
a fighter pilot husband from the base
on Hong Kong killed in a car crash
on leave. Widowed, comatose,
suddenly foreign in a way
over which she had no choice.
My mother talks of what she wore.
Sunglasses, pelts—a wardrobe
from a non-existent time, or home.
Those who suffer movement}
see something of the world
at the very least. Some welcome
or unwelcome or indifferent port.


The falsehood is that there is so little
left for us to know.
More likely, more truthful,
is that things of hers got lost
in the gap between their languages.
My mother’s council estate English,
her mother’s Spanish and Portuguese –
by way of Peru, Porto, the devil-knows-where …
There were times it did not matter,
my mother has always said,
she just would speak for days on end.
She was four foot ten.
Inscrutable, saudade. One way or another
too much for two husbands
and this strange, unremarkable
little town where I keep my trap
shut now, when the talk turns
to Europe.


I was young when she died.
As a point of fact
she moves further and further away
from those of us remaining.
Hotel names, ledgers touching
to an early life she tried to hide.
The sap of the stone pine.
The prickle of a praying mantis
on my pale and childish hand.
All to be denied even as they fade.
It is not really recall of her
that comes to me now in airports
or those big European train depots,
but an imagining.
Bad choices that pile up like debts.