What passed there, in air
trapped under the domes
of glass, always damper
and warmer than air outside,
was repeated every dry day:
the wiping down of a bench,
the unwrapping of gingerbread,
the unstoppering of the thermos,
the puffing out of Grandma’s lips
to rouse a wild sea in her cup.
She’d read aloud from the Deaths
in the Evening Post, relishing
details of how people died
and the amazing sums they’d left,
then doze with a page of the paper
shading her head, while I peered
into the dark spaces under the iron
lacework of gratings, or played a game
with myself on the paving paths,
jumping as far as I could
without landing on a crack.
I was allowed to collect flowers
that had fallen onto the soil.
But they were brown at the edges,
or nibbled by beetles and slugs.
So, once, I picked a flower
from a bush – crimson petals
so intricately folded
it was like a flower made of paper
dipped in glistening wax.
When I found it later, wrapped
in a handkerchief, squashed
in a pocket of my shorts,
I held it to my mouth, pretending
I’d coughed up a clot of blood.