The trunk is marked ‘Store’,
bound with French sticky tape.
‘Vaiselles’ it screams, ‘Fragile’!
The china is nondescript, but
waiting at the bottom, rolled,
soft, protective, saved, your
‘doing it myself’, ‘who wants to help’,
‘let’s have a go’ jumper.
Your frowned-on mother, Grandma M,
Paton and Baldwins’ pattern testing,
stitch perfect , knitting queen
made it for you, gave it to you.
Christmas – 1963.
I was eleven. She was dying.
You were only allowed to wear it
for doing ‘jobs’.
You wear it in my memory,
its heavy cable trapping paint flakes,
dead-heads, oily fingerprints;
redolent of bonfires, Merry Maid caramels
dripping on toast and paraffin.
I see you changing gaskets, sharpening
shears, sewing the guy ropes
back on to the tent.
Its heather tweed appearance
at the breakfast table meant
fun and bitter arguments.
We’d conspire! We two
would be ‘out of her hair’ in garage,
garden or shed. I’d twist my thumb
in its ribbing and follow you,
‘out from under her feet’.
You died. In France. You left.
I packed up your house. Gave
away your clothes. Moved her
back to England. I don’t remember
how. But now, in the box marked
‘Store’, I find you, smell you, touch you again.
I slip you on, feel your hand
on my shoulder, your voice in my heart.