Visits to Grandma
by Lesley Burt
doorstep greeting – sharp
that grazed my elbows in the porch –
always, ‘What do you want?’
never knew the answer.
Once, I was invited onto her lap
beside the fire that had toasted her shins
tweed skirt prickled my legs
like coconut matting.
feared dustmen were spies,
stacked rubbish in the kitchen;
pointed a knobbly finger at mice
that scurried among jars and peelings;
scrubbed and scrubbed her hands
under the hot tap;
began to substitute
morning milky coffee,
afternoon tea and Kit-Kat,
with sherry and aspirin.
hair knotted itself into a nest.
read pencilled notes
margins of her ‘Deserted Village’,
unable to link the teacher who wrote them
with this odd creature.
the end, my mother mourns
woman who used to bake, crochet,
love anemones and strawberries.
weep for my mother’s loss.
by Irene Hossack
Your mother was as strange to me as her name.
small old lady, black hair pulled back in a tight bun,
gave me a shiny black jewel box with a ballerina
dancing to the tune of music box dancer inside.
mother watched me take it from her as we sat
together in a strange, brown, Glasgow tenement.
gentle little hands, which had once saved you
from drowning in the burn, showed me the key
making the ballerina dance. I recognised her
gypsy eyes, they belonged to you and me, our
shared genetic inheritance, rarely mentioned
through whispered stories in your absence.
voluntary estrangement formed you and me,
lingering suspicion of the cruelty of women
precluded us. The small trace of her presence in our lives
seen in the dance of the music box ballerina.