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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)

Even god

(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)

A miscarriageway

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

I smiled

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


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