Pere Ubu ah-signature




In memoriam

Albert Johnson d. May 13th, 1970
Frances Johnson, née Potter d. May 16th, 1970
Emma Henri, née Jo
hnson d. June 3rd, 1970
Arthur Maurice Henri d. June 29th, 1970





PART ONE 1932-51



flags and bright funnels of ships
walking with my mother over the Seven Bridges
and being carried home too tired
frightened of the siren on the ferryboat
or running down the platform on the Underground
being taken over the river to see the big shops at Christmas
the road up the hill from the noisy dockyard
and the nasty smell from the tannery you didn't like going past
steep road that made your legs tired
up the hill from the Co-op the sweetshop the blue-and-white-tiled pub
Grandad's allotment on the lefthand side
behind the railings curved at the top
cobblestone path up the middle to the park
orderly rows of bean canes    a fire burning    sweetpeas tied up on strings
up to Our House
echoing flagyard entry between the two rows of houses
brick buttresses like lumps of cheese against the backyard walls 
your feet clang and echo on the flags as you run the last few yards
pulling your woolly gloves off
shouting to show Grandad what you've just been bought
him at the door tall like the firtree in the park
darkblue suit gleaming black boots shiny silver watch chain
striped shirt no collar on but always a collarstud
heavy grey curled moustache that tickles when he picks you up to kiss you
sometimes shouting angry frightening you
till you see the laughter in his countryman's blue eyes




round redbrick doorway
yellow soapstone step cleaned twice a week
rich darkred linopattern in the polished lobby
front room with lace runners and a piano that you only go in on Sundays
or when someone comes to tea
Uncle Bill asleep in his chair coming in smelling of beer and horses
limping with the funny leg he got in the war
Grandma always in a flowered apron
the big green-and-red parrot frightening you with his sudden screeches
the two little round enamelled houses on either side of the fireplace
big turquoise flowered vase in the middle
the grate shining blackleaded cooking smell from the oven next to it

big black sooty kettle singing on the hob
fireirons in the hearth
foghorns and hooters
looking out of the kitchen window
seeing the boats on the bright river
and the cranes from the dockyards



coming back the taxidriver doesn't know where the street is
the allotments at the foot of the hill
gone now
great gaunt terraces of flats
scarred with graffiti
the redbrick houses tiny falling apart
the whitewashed backyard
where you could smell lily of the valley through the privet hedge round the tiny garden
on your way to the lavatory at the end
empty dirty overgrown now
backdoor banging in the wind
grandmother grandfather both dead in hospital
one windowpane broken dirty lace curtain flapping
the funny little flights of steps
the secret passages in the park
pink sandstone steps overhung with trees up the side of the hill
overgrown or demolished
the big seacaptain's house where I used to go for a present every Christmas
lying in bed
in the dark crying listening to my mother and father argue
wind banging a shutter
indoors somewhere
dead eyes looking out from flyblown photographs
empty mirrors reflecting the silence

from  Selected and Unpublished Poems, LUP 2007 (first published by Jonathan Cape, 1971)


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