Haunt

 

Grandfather, you were the man of the house,

the one who slacked the fire and rose at dawn

to poke it into life, a waking pulse.

You hated night-lights burning, would come down

in your stockinged feet, to flick the Bakelite switch:

our whispers in solid dark, abruptly drowned.

So I find myself, back in the old-fashioned kitchen

of the place you bought (and we sold) – a fitting home,

though I was far too absent to know it then.

Sheets on the indoor washing line. I part them

to see the door already swinging open,

the moment closing in, trailing its hem.

Is a ghost any less a ghost if it’s a dream?

You’re tired, slightly stooped in your wine-red jumper,

grey sides of your bald head slick with Brylcreem.

Our eyes don’t meet. I know why we are here:

for you to begin again, retell each story

and me to finally listen, and remember.

I rifle the nearest dresser drawer (the one

with rubber gloves, corks, scissors, snarls of twine . . .)

for a pencil stub and anything to write on.

You sigh, ask for ‘a cup of tea’, and I take

those words down as the dream-silt stirs and dims

and muddles me awake.