A third of a mile separates where
you were born from where you live now:
in between, The Mount - of your youth -
visible from both. Marriage and motherhood
took you a mile and a half out of town;
but you are back within your horizons
and you pray each day to stay.
Thirty Seven Attwood Street, is gone;
all new flats. And a now too stiff climb
would take you on up to Whitehill.
Across the Cheshire Plain the view you showed me
still reaches to the Welsh Hills and, out there, a year my elder,
Jodrell Bank scans the heavens on your behalf.
The Laburnum sapling planted at Long Row
to remind you of Number Two - The Mount,
has not thrived: a bad graft onto poor root stock,
planted through thin mulch into sub-soil spoil;
though of course a better gift than none at all:
family ties trying to buy you time; buy back
the dark laburnum bark blackened with acrid soot
risen from the Loop-Line cutting culled at Beeching,
the Birchen Wood pit and gas factory
and from every coal fed chimney that signified ‘home’:
The mature tree of our separate memories:
mine the rough scramble up the trunk
to catch a view of trains, and yours
the ‘happy’, now ever-flowering yellow blossom
that, greets your home-coming memory.
The old Long Row’s long gone but none the worse
for being replaced by bungalows; though you
all joke across the fences that it’s dead man’s
shoes to get a place. And I keep a straight face
at first, wrong footed by your deadpan delivery,
before a creeping smile; permission to laugh.
Not like you to pull my leg these days
but I feel warm, like you’ve just told me that
I’ll catch chin-cough for sitting on
cold quarry tiles. And I smile but can’t catch
the laughter that ripples down the row.
Is it that I don’t know or that I don’t want
to know what only the companionship of widows