At the end of the decade
you got to keep the house
both cats, the furniture,
the car, the driving skills,
the river-view, the bookshelves,
the rugs, the blankets, the bed,
the stepped-garden, the
with stately wisdom, the cups
with the origin stories, the framed
photos from the festival, all
the god damn photos, but
the one thing I don’t miss,
the only sound you left
me with, an empty hall
with a lone grandmother
When one door closes
How many doors in this kitchen, tell me.
She said. As if it was a trick question.
I looked around, determined to get
the correct answer.
Five doors, I said, one to the living room,
one to the hallway, one to the larder, one
to the office, oh, and the patio.
Nope. She said. Guess again.
Oh, the cupboard doors, that’s another
eleven, that makes sixteen. Nope.
She said. I looked again. The Aga.
That had three doors. The fridge.
The dishwasher. Twenty-one, I
declared, to her consternation. I’ll
give you a clue. She said. I can never
open this one. I racked my brains –
there was the door to the loft, but
that wasn’t in the kitchen. I’ll let you
think about it. She said. As she
walked out the front door.
Just this stile
My dearest friends who love maps
who pore over them
ah-ing and ooh-ing over place names
woodlands and walks to discover
and know how to translate
the two-dimensional into breeze
inscribed fields and trees and paths.
They wonder at my ineptitude to discern
a direction from the lines and coloured
paper in comparison to the grass and
bumps my feet navigate and the circles
of flight of buzzards and kites
my eyes keep retracing in the sky.
I flick through different kinds of maps to find:
the bathroom where my father died
the daily meditation hill of my teenage-hood
the housing estate of dread and knotted stomach
……..hours spent trying not to throw up
the stairs I sat on for midnight phone calls with
……..my best friend where we reassured each other
……..we were not disappearing
the road I drove for a decade with no direction,
……..T-junctions of confusion, never-ending replicated
……..roundabouts where I didn’t know how to exit
the maze of mirrors where laughter ricocheted and it didn’t
……..matter that me and my father were lost
the first sandcastle I ever built, the first dig with a tiny
……..new red spade, the first bucket of water dad brought me
the oak I sat beneath as it revealed my immediate future,
my near past, my temporary purpose
the hidden fairy-tale cottage in an idyllic of woods
……..which was really a prison with bars no-one could see
and the moonlit patch of harbour water as I reclined on a boat
……..in the lapping silence.
If we shortcut that way, we’ll be back in time for tea. Just this stile here, I think,
he says and points a sunny way. I smile and follow, nodding at the
peacock fluttering on the vetch along the way.
Bethany Rivers’ pamphlet, Off the wall, was published last summer by Indigo Dreams Publishing. She loves thunderstorms and curling in front of an open fire with a fabulous book. She mentors the writing of novel, memoir and poetry. www.writingyourvoice.org.uk