We thought it was the wind beating the shutters
making arris rails and fence posts rattle until
we went outside
and could not feel its breath upon our cheeks -
even though the tree tops rolled
like waves upon an ocean shore.
The past is passing by, a passing lady said.
He's right, my granddad said.
Next morning he was dead.
For twenty days and nights the past passed by,
stripping the tree tops of their leaves,
and then one morning all was quiet.
By then Granddad was buried -
"somewhere out of sight",
as was the custom of the family
("as close as possible, just out of sight"):
two fields away
the slight rise to the furrowed ridge.
called in the priest
to exorcise the spirits of the past,
which worried us who thought that Granddad might be one -
until the priest
said Granddad was long dead and had moved on.
(Since when was twenty days so long? I asked.)
The exorcism caused a great uprush of air.
The weeping willows by the stream
threw their branches skywards,
arms brushing past their ears.
I was surprised to think the spirits
might have been carried upwards in that way.
He'd taught me much:
to feel my way into a forest;
to think my way across a moor;
that the place to walk
is where the ground beneath you falters;
that the grass is greenest when you close your eyes.
When I closed my eyes
the grass was greenest
and the land beneath me faltered most
two fields away
beyond the slight rise to the furrowed ridge.
Then when I went
to visit him
and walked among the stones
above the bones
the feedback was,
what shall I say?
Long after you are dead, he said once,
still your story's being written
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