I asked her to marry me here
He said and gestured obliquely
A gnarled liver spot scarred hand
Curled and slightly twisted
Waved across an ugly dual carriageway
A flat liquorice ribbon that wound
Both ways as far as the eye could see.
Road without end he laughed solemnly
But in those days he smiled
His false teeth smoother than his uneven toothy smile
This wasn’t here, oh no.
This Devil’s Bridge was a cathedral, a sacrament to nature
Where no one ever went.
We climbed the hills and I surprised her
Made her walk uphill with a five or more pint hangover
She heard me mutter to myself before I heard myself
Exhorting myself to broach the subject
Stir up my courage
And I know she knew what I was about to ask
Before I even fell to my knees to ask her
She was smiling serene
She always knew, even then, in th
e early days, what I was
About to say.
Before I knew myself.
And she maintained that she’d always known
From unexpected improbable beginnings
That we should be together
Still they call this progress
He shrugged and pushed his glasses
Back up his nose
A familiar gesture, reassuring
She hated this, she did.
She called it hers.
Called it a travesty to christen it progress
Think it nearly killed her
All that time ago
When some or other faceless dignitary
Sliced through the ribbon
and the first trucks rolled in hooting
took it dead personal she did.
As though the corporation has intruded
On her own private space
A place where they had no right to be.
And every time since then
When I came home
She launched her angry tirade
Against the civil service, against
The government (whichever shower were in power)
(in whose existence she truthfully didn’t believe)
And more often than not with scalding, boiling tears of rage and frustration
Coursing down her cheeks.
She never saw it as just a road
More a travesty
Or precisely (in her words)
Not that it matters now of course
Now it’s just a road that goes from A to B
And that’s no more or less than it ought to be, or C
And with that he opened the heavily lidded pot
And cast my grandmother onto the road
The slick black asphalt she hated so much
He shrugged again. Almost imperceptibly
I didn’t understand it either, son.
I didn’t understand it, life.
And it’s no clearer now than then
He rested his slack once muscular arm
Across my broad shoulder
It’s what she expressly stipulated though
If it’s what she wanted granddad I began
He laughed, a hoarse choking sound
Closer to a sob
She never knew what she wanted son
Not in life
It surprises me that she could have predicted
What she might have wanted in death
A blast of icy wind blew down the valley and filled the silence,
Swooping Grandma into a swirling cloud
That dispersed her far across the road and beyond
Into the grouseland woodland anonymous
There. She’s gone. I did the best I could
Best get on with it now then, eh?
© C Jackson 2010
No reproduction in any form permitted without specific written permission of the author