I don’t want to go back there
There where my grandparents
Grew old, the flat beside the sea
The glorious rolling views, out and
Across, to Brighton and beyond
The white cliffs aching with the legacy
Of Vera Lynn and her songs.

But when I think of them, in their
Stuffy flat, the heating on, too hot,
Granny, losing her marbles, lost, gone
I don’t think of the bad times, the sick
Times, my grandfather and his poorly leg,
Throat, croaking towards the grave,
No, I do not think of the bad times, only
I cannot go back because of the memories
They are stuck in the walls of my mind
Vivid and potent, and every time I think of the
Flat beside the sea, I feel the warm fug, the scent
Of, what was it, gravy? I can taste the roast potatoes
Only the way that granny used to make them,
So crisp on the outside they nearly burned
But golden and melting on the inside.

I can see myself, the shadow of the girl I was
Sat, entranced, watching an old video
Of an ancient storm, I was enraptured,
And then, again, couched on the floor
Playing with the toy cars they had bought me
For they cared for me a lot, and it is more than
Nostalgia for more innocent times
It is the terrible sense of loss
That all of this is somehow gone from me
And I know that when I go back to the flat
Their absence will scream at me, although they
Have been gone for so very long.

And that is why the flat beside the sea
It is more than just a memory
The wallpaper, loud and gold and boastful
Is imprinted on my mind, and is as much
The fabric of my grandparents, as of their
Words, and of the time I spent with them
And to think of myself floating
Through the corridors they once owned
Stroking the old photos
Brings more than just tears to my eyes.

I cannot go back there
Because I want to imagine them there still
My grandfather, sitting in his chair,
Clicking his tongue like he always did
In disbelief, I think it was, and Granny,
A blur of a woman trapped in perpetual
Motion, the din of her emotions, the whirl
Of stories, the smell of her perfume, the whisk
Of her clothes, the clothes she used to make
I want to stand outside the heavy door
And think them just inside, and forget that
The inside is empty, void, they are gone
The flat is a memorial, in memoriam, gathering
Dust and staring out to sea, away, far away,
To wherever they both have gone.

Rose Staveley-Wadham