Always In Black Poem by Roger Hudson

Always In Black

The little old lady in a long black dress
In memory always the same black dress
Prepares our meals when Mum is at work
Never goes out
Sits reading the paper
Listening to the wireless
Looking through the window to see who is passing

That's Gran.
My father's mother.
She must have been like that
Since her husband died
Who sounds as though he was
A jolly, outgoing, successful sales rep
Liked by all.
Was she once a match for him?
Or a subservient slave?

I share a bedroom with her
Till about age nine
The room redolent
With the smell of age
Heavy curtains always drawn
In darkened gloom.

Every evening
I fetch from the pantry
Her health-giving bottle of Guinness
And pour it for her
Black drink for a black lady.

At square bashing
During National Service
I learn she is ill
Near to death.
Feeling closer to her than I really ever was
I cite this
In pleading with the officer in charge
To grant a pass
To go home for the weekend.
I go.
She dies several months later
While I am serving in Germany
And lies buried in the cemetery
Across the road from the house
In a country village
From which the rest of the family
Moved away
Her grave never visited

Who was she?
Hints only.
A fragment of a tale
Of having, as a child, watched
Her drunken father
Throw the family silver
On the roaring fire
Melting away its value.
So a background of substance.

Yet, when her husband died,
The freemasons refused to pay her
A widow's pension
When they discovered
She was born out of wedlock.

And that's all
I ever knew.
Yet she looked after
A prosperous middle-class house
And husband
Gave birth to
Brought up
Saw through education
Three children.
Then hung on
A silent black ghost
Background figure
Throughout my childhood
But conveyed
No sense of a personality
Needs desires
Of her own
Just fitting in
A convenient childminder
A hint of company
A shadow moving through
The remains of a life.

Thursday, December 28, 2017
Topic(s) of this poem: age,family,history,remembrance,widow
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