We sit in the dark, listening to the rain, the sound of raindrops on tin, the fatter sound against the windows, against the door.
I know the curtains are flowered. They are old, old, old. You do not want me to speak, don’t want the light on. You are lit only by a tiny green planet, the stand-by light on the TV.
We are not answering the phone, you have begged me for silence. While you can, you said, you want to be quiet, remember other sounds, older sounds, softer, less shrill - the music of a mountain stream, the rise and fall of morning birds.
You must have reached out for me: I feel your wasted hand on mine. You speak and you ask me to talk about nice things. When I draw in a breath you say, “Son, be nice. Really, John, it’s about how you say it, about peace.
I think of towns I have visited, places I stayed. How I left this old woman when she wasn’t so old, but was already drying out, when she thought in too slow a way for me, walked too easily, wanted less than I needed.
I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.
I like skies, Mum, but not all skies. I like sunlight on a perfect lawn. I like how night falls and silence comes to the farm, when even the animals know to be quiet.
I need to leave but it’s impossible. I need to run, to go to the gym. I want to count stairs, steps, calories, feel endorphins rise up through. I want to pummel, pummel, pummel. I am a poor son, a bad son.
I like Kingfishers, not blue, not green, a petrol colour. I like that they are only there for a second or a second and a half but they could only be Kingfishers.
I’m thinking about Jennifer, how I step so carefully like an insect on water.
“Lamb” my mother says.
A good dog, potatoes fresh from the ground, gravy, mint-sauce, roses, poppies.
Don’t let Jennifer go, John…
Cabbage cooked with bicarb, peas, the lamb fat shining in the gravy.
Yes, Mum. Me at the gates of school, my shirt so starched it clacked. Sandstone, village fetes, apples floating in water, candy-floss, fluffy slippers.
Thank you, Son.
The river leaves us. Somewhere there is a playground for the dead. Frank is waiting. He wears his poppy, he wears his best grey suit. He doesn't limp, he isn’t coughing.
It dazzles, Son.
No, Mum, nothing should dazzle us
Now I am thinking about my mother. She wants to float over rooftops. Someone tell her to stop.