Once my grandfather was on Desert Island Discs. Your voice came out of the radio dad had dusted off and propped up on the kitchen table and you told everyone your tuppence on survival. Interviewer loved it when you bought up Beethoven. Symphony to remind you that everything was beautiful and vast and grand and big things, like that. He lapped it up you were breathing money. Then you needed some songs I did not know them. They were haunting. I thought you would be depressed alone on a desert island listening to this miserable music. But then, you said what you really needed was a recording of my grandmother’s voice. Her high lovely calm voice curling round your body. Like a shadow, like a God holding words You’re safe You’re not alone. At the funeral we listened to the miserable music you claimed to have liked. A grandparent’s death is a funny thing. It is my mother’s grief filtering through the stained-glass windows a beginning undoing an ending with the commonest sadness - Then we played your disc. You’re safe, you’re not alone, you said, and we replayed that bit over, over. Your voice shifted the weight of the world off my shoulders. You were right, I thought. There you were, beyond the grave, still being right.
The Pilgrimage of the X68
I. Gladys’ voice was a police siren as I got on, its waves rippled down the stairs with increasing intensity until, like always, I plopped myself behind her. Big mistake- Christian Doppler would’ve argued why. I never understood who she was berating, nor who was under her surveillance, for she spoke a language that I did not, yet I always tried to listen. One day she closed the case and cradled her hands in her lap, and so, I lowered my music. We’d only past one stop before the incessant ringing made me jump. I increased my volume. I’d put too much faith in Gladys. II. Malcolm just happened to always be in the middle, his emerald-brimmed hat masking the gaunt face it decorated. His grey eyes met mine on occasion, but returned to their pit of despair- no, or contentment? Malcolm was an enigma to me, I knew that he wasn’t happy, for I could not judge what his story was except that transit was limbo. But last week when he stepped one foot on the pavement, he lit a cigar and inhaled deeply, so I thought, this must be why. III. Marsha was a peacock, fit with ruffling feathers and a slick ponytail that shone in the sun. Her steady hand painted her face, day in, day out, and I wondered whether the extra sleep was worth it? Any error would ruin her portrait, and she was too prestige for such a folly. No. Marsha would never make a mistake, her graceful hands drew in colour on her face in the manner of a conductor to an orchestra, who knew the beauty of her symphony. * I sigh in tranquillity, my head resting on the cool window when London strolls by as I breathe out my surroundings, captured inside my heart like a lover in a locket. I clutch my chest tightly.
What has changed? I still surrender to that damp earth smell, unique to open-air theatres and flower beds, I still gaze at the seven amber stars, that flicker in unison as they light the street, dotting the same black and blue clouds I’ve always painted. Time has begun to be measured by hair growth, the grass is the only thing being cut, It begs you to mould your head into its summery trim, wishing you would star-gaze with it, one more time. I still hear the whistle of owls in the empty evenings, walking through the bracken at midnight, listening only to their song, and the beck that plays piano out of tune for its woodland audience - guttural croaks and rustling whoops, I still look out over lush hills, populated by sheep, and I still wonder which route I’ll take the dog today, just not near the town.