David Lewis Paget
The Jar - Poem by David Lewis Paget
She kept the jar on the mantelpiece,
Our Grandma, Eleanor Flood,
A plain ceramic with just one flaw
A cross that was scrawled in blood.
We didn't know what she kept in there,
We'd ask, but she'd never tell,
She merely said if we opened it
Our souls would go straight to hell.
It sat forever above the hearth
And stared at us as we ate,
My sister said it was filled with earth
Scraped up from somebody's grate.
I thought it might hold a pile of coins
Of Spanish Dollars and gold,
I'd read so much about gold doubloons
In pirate stories of old.
But Grandma Eleanor pursed her lips
Each time that we asked her why,
We couldn't look and we couldn't touch,
She'd sit, and stare at the sky.
‘You vex me, child, ' she would often say,
‘You'd tempt the devil to tire,
Your parents left me to care for you,
The day they died in the fire.'
She used that story to shut us up,
She knew to pile on the guilt,
She made us pay for each bite and sup
By shaming us to the hilt.
She made it seem like a deadly chore
To have to cater for us,
‘My life, ' she said, ‘should have been much more,
Not that I like to fuss.'
We'd often ask about Grandpa Joe,
Ask what had happened to him?
Her eyes would turn to a fiery glow,
‘He died in a state of sin.'
She wouldn't tell us what he had done,
What got her into a state,
We looked for signs that she'd loved him once,
But all that we saw was hate.
The house was heated from down below
A furnace under the floor,
I'd have to feed it with coal and coke
I'd bring from the coal house store.
She'd make me empty the pale grey ash
And scatter it on the stones,
Out in the garden, by the trash,
And next to a heap of bones.
She said that Grandpa had kept a dog,
And fed it on butchers bones,
Then threw them out by the fallen log
And next to the pathway stones.
My sister said they were burned and black
And like they'd been in a fire,
We wouldn't have dared to answer back
Or call our Grandma a liar.
One day, while dusting the mantelpiece
The jar had crashed, and it burst,
The sound of shattering porcelain
Drowned out our Grandmother's curse.
For spilling out of the broken jar
Was a pile of ash in the light,
And sitting there was a skull as well,
Along with the ash, bleached white.
Then Grandma let out a weird wail
And fell, to kneel on the floor,
She stared, and the skull was staring back
To tear at her cold heart's core.
‘Why have you come to haunt and stare, '
She cried, then toppled and fell,
Down on her face as her heart gave out,
Sending her soul to hell.
Two jars now sit on the mantelpiece
Of Joe and Eleanor Flood,
A matching pair, and each with a cross
I carefully smeared with blood.
I shovelled her through the furnace door
And later, raked out the ash,
While now there's a growing pile of bones
In the garden, next to the trash.
27 July 2017
Comments about The Jar by David Lewis Paget
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.