Reading Thomas Hood’s poem on the Underground
I remember, yes, I too remember
the house where I was born,
and the only photograph I remember
is the one I do not have
of the front, taken before the war
which commandeered for bombs
the railings and the wrought-iron gate.
I remember the jagged stumps,
and the missing gate, like a loss of face;
the absurdity of the cloche hats,
my mother sadly smiling sadly,
my kind aunt, no kids to spoil
and a suicide plan for retirement,
who kindly spoilt me sick with plums.
I remember the dining-room,
agony of long evenings, wind howling
under floor-boards, lino lifting,
reek of smoke gassing the air,
the Bakelite wireless in the corner,
wheezing and spluttering in and out of life,
my father causing friction twiddling dials.
I remember the air-raid shelter
my parents shared with old Mrs Weaver
till the last all-clear, the cat that sulked
in the cherry-tree if left for a day;
flour-faced Mrs Weaver, my first death at eight;
the cat at ten, just a whiff of gas,
after his trouble in the coal-shed.
I remember the landing,
where I stood and it was always cold,
and I’d call that I couldn’t sleep,
as they niggled away downstairs,
the one coal fire petering out,
a smouldering rumble of a row
she would miss when he’d gone.
I remember the front room,
conserved for special occasions and never used,
icy as a monk’s cell, my Meccano retreat.
I google and see new railings, a new gate –
imagine phantoms gliding from room to room,
trampling over the boy on the landing
as they traipse through the man on the train.