My grandfather as a boy
Combed his hair to be good
For his mother’s burial.
Mirror above the hearth,
Dim as a bog pool.
His reflection moved under the smoky glass
But over his shoulder, much deeper within
His mother walked down the stairs behind him,
Formal and pale
And went out silently
Into the mist on the Curragh.
A story repeated surely as Sunday tea
With the clock ticking at his back,
To my sister, my brother and me
Sitting along the sofa.
Each time grey eyes shifting between ours,
The same troubled look,
And his open mouth
Asking us to go with him, that long ago morning
On the gravel path towards the grave –
To see what he had seen
But scarcely could believe himself.
Steven O’Brien is the editor of the London Magazine. His poetry collections include Scrying Stone (Greenwich Exchange) and Dark Hill Dreams (Inpress Books).
This article appears in the 04 Nov 2020 issue of the New Statesman, American chaos