love poems To My Grandmother by Atai Emmeline grandmother poem

To My Grandmother


At first seeding, the garden of your hair lit an uncontained sepia beige,
Curlets wild like blonde-tipped wheat at morning warble.
Bees and crows and happy flyaways, two gleeful eyes squinting
In a country sun before a bald fence.

We saw it once together. Cows barged through the holes in the walls of the
School where you learned you could run fast,
And I blurred my eyes where your house must have been
To see you standing beside your mother
As she made perfects beds, squares of clean-smelling cotton
That she boiled and pressed until they were islands of longing.

I didn’t know you then, but I wish I did.
I want to buy you treats, kiss your ears and send you to school again
When your mother died and left you schoolless at nine.

And as your father teaches you to eat grubs and rabbits
While inside you dream hot fuchsia desires for
Blush-coloured lolly milkshakes and a bicycle,
I want to wind it around the path to where you play on the gate,
And see you ride with all that hot air tussling your ears,
The metal burning into the instep of your impatience to be free
And find the city, the Broadway of the rollerdrome, and movies filled with
Girls and outfits, more outfits than suitcases they ever carried.
And you and I would laugh about this fifty years later
In your Bali-bed (“always the whole bloody family in it”, said Pappa)
Eating sweets and watching the flush-faced, tight-bosomed girls,
Our two soft bodies under matching flannelette pyjamas.

It seems so arbitrary
That you were born first.

I was only there for one of your births:
When you were born and I made you, not just any Grandmother but Nanny.
I can only remember you all those times after,
Your suntanned arms around me as I trained around your rails,
Winding ever higher in your sunlight and frequent irrigation
Of your infinite approval, your powder-puffs on the toilet seat,
Your jigging to every tape I ever put in the car tape deck,
Your big fat bottoms, everybody’s gottems…

In the garden, wearing a straw hat jaunty with whatever flower you happened upon,
Cosmos grew, died down and resprouted,
Alyssum meandered through the decades, and the roses, all those roses,
Bought with the fond naming of strangers and turned into signs,
Echoed my children’s words, or fascinations, or impulsive interest.
Best Friend. Just Joey. Heart of Gold. William Morris.
Our thousands of flowers, each one a moment we laughed at or noticed.

The gardens you have created have always been lush, eternal,
And covered in so many delights of nature
That imagining them differently each year is impossible, faced with such
Effusions of petalburst, odours, wild art and inspiration.
Your seasons changed at first in the way that
Days pass when we spend all of it indoors. I didn’t notice your
Hot flushes, deepening etches, changing voice.

But sometimes now you are too tired for gardening.
Now I am the watchful landscaper, attentive to the whims of pressure systems,
Every time I feel the key latch in the door, hear my feet in the hall propelling me
To find you in your chair, and bury my head in you,
And harvest your smells, soap and roses.
Your little rocking motion and soft hands as you
Pat-pat-pat between my shoulders, and I feel your warmth
As one does the last loved summer evenings.

You think you are weak, but I say you thrive
In the yellow glow of the days of our lives and chocolates,
Sipping tea in your beautiful launderette, to the smell of boiling vegetables
And toast slapped with thick butter, beetroot in a jar and passionfruit sponge.

And my children, still indoors, do not know that you were once not
Soft as grapevine, wild and treasured as a rosegarden in a desert country.

Love Poem by Atai Emmeline

Love Art – Eagle Head, Manchester, Massachusetts (High Tide) (1870) by Winslow Homer, the MET museum.