Nana calls round, she walks slowly
but her tongue is sharp:
Right. Ye – come wi me!
Put a coat on, it’s cad mind,
them cotton things are nee good.
She pulls at Frankie’s hood,
Wear a scarf and gloves.
Haway – we haven’t got all day.
He follows her out, the air bites,
her breath comes in white puffs
Where we going Nan?
To a place where troubles are sorted.
They set off up West Road; halfway
Nana has to stop, her chest heaving
sits on the low wall of the funeral parlour
beside the old Fire Station.
Frankie stares at his feet, the tips
of his fingers tucked in his armpits.
Nana takes his arm, they walk on
her grip is strong despite her failing lungs.
She stops outside heavy wooden doors,
a red brick church dark and dour;
But nothing – c’mon.
He steps inside, incense
thick in the air, candles flicker,
footsteps echo. Chairs scrape, they sit.
Nana closes her eyes, her lips
form soundless words. Frank looks around:
the silence, the power and scent
surround him, he wants this shell
to hold him close, transport him to a place
of healing and acceptance.
He closes his eyes and clasps his hands
tight in his lap; he forms a plea, a prayer
a question – to have no body, no physical
self, to be a spirit, a soul that can float away
that nothing can hurt.
He hears a male voice drone, he looks up
the priest has grey hair with a yellow streak
his first two fingers on his right hand are stained.
Frank remembers Ned like a sudden pain in his head.
He’s lost the moment.
Nana and Frank walk slowly home.
Nana says nowt, Frank feels wrung out;
he walks her to her door, pecks her cheek,
she grunts Yer a good lad.
Let yer father guide yer away from trouble.
Frank’s not sure what he heard,
did she mean God or Dad?
He turns to walk home,
Nana calls him back: Haway!
Stop for a coffee lad.
He looks around and sees a rare smile
on Nana’s face.
Nana shivers in her kitchen
making milky coffee:
Put that gas fire on she calls.
Frank clicks the switch
the blue and yellow flames light
instantly, then glow orange.
She comes in – Not Full on, Frankie!
I’m not made o’money.
He turns it down to number three,
she hands him a plate of soft ginger biscuits:
Easier on the teeth.
Frank and Nana dip them in their drinks.
Nan? Frankie stares at the fire
Is Grandad.. where is he? Is he dead?
Where, when? How did he die?
He left me an the bairns when your pa
was ten. Far as I’m concerned
he was dead from then.
Thirty one years and not a word.
But maybe, what if he was ill
and that’s why he left?
It was deliberate, that’s all I know.
Do you think I’m like him?
Nana looks quick and hard –
What yer mean?
I ran away.
Good God lad, yer a young man
who needs a strong hand, that’s all.
Let the Catholic church take yer
to it’s bosom.
Frank blushes at the word
Nana leans: Yer divvent need them pills.
It’s strength of mind – you’ve got that
and that’s what yer Grandad lacked.
She stands to take the empty cups away
Frank hears her in the kitchen
lighting a tab, and then her hacking cough
he pops his head round the door
Nana waves him away, and he’s off.