Memories hide in the strangest of places
Like a bottle of fairy liquid and
How, towards the end, my grandmother used
It to wash her knickers, I didn’t expect
To remember her that way, marigolds on
The bubbles surging around me, the hot water
Too hot, and she comes back to me, before
She went away, her mood merry, her eyes
Blue and clear and laughing, of course it’s okay
To wash my knickers in the sink with fairy liquid.

But we knew, when she started to wash her hair
With it, that the end was approaching, mouth gaping
But I want to remember her like that, and I feel
She is with me, as I stand by my sink, engaged
In domesticity, I don’t want to think of how she
Shrivelled, wasted away, she was a maverick
Who washed things she shouldn’t with fairy liquid.

That was the only way to rebel in the end
When she had spent a life in one rebellion after another
The woman who could not be tamed, fearless,
Oh, you wouldn’t want to cross her, she’d spit in your
Food if you upset her, her girls, holding the dish up
And ready for her saliva, she’d always speak her mind
Even if you didn’t like it, don’t come to her for kisses
Come to her for indignation and hisses, but she was
More knowing than a pantomime crowd, had your
Back when things got too loud, I feel like I was there
That time at Butlins, a man, pestering her to dance
Because she was beautiful, like Elizabeth Taylor,
But she wasn’t having any of it, she had her man,
Told the other one to get beat, she was being embarrassed
Her with her wooden leg, sit back down,
Although she never had one, but she could
Lie and cheat, and bat her eyelashes, and you
Wouldn’t think she had done anything wrong.

But it’s all done now, all life and vim gone up
The chimney, and I miss her, miss the way she
Got when she finally became cuddly, the grandmother
I always wanted, although she still had her fire
Her vim and her desire, but I swear I could feel her
Giggling away as I washed my dishes, put
Vaseline on your eyelashes, a million little things,
Words I’ll remember, and I can conjure her at
Any second, she’ll linger around laughing, smiling,
Even though she doesn’t believe in things like that
She’ll smile a wicked smile because she knows
She’s still got it, and she’s still got my back.

 

Rose Staveley-Wadham

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