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Roger Ettenfield

Visiting Grandad


The frozen ground, mud turned rock

The gate latch glistened with frost

A bottle of milk, pushed up gold top

Like a top hat, or a creamy ice pop

Dad’s knuckles cracked on a faded blue door

And crows fly from the black, naked trees

No cover from fallen autumn leaves

With a silhouetted transit of a low burning sun


Inside, the smell of old boots and socks

Three ducks still flying high on the wall

Grey in the gloom from a single light bulb

And as always, sitting there, a crumpled heap of

Old tweed clothes, wearing a flat cap


I approach, my little shoes tread

On skeleton threads of ancient carpet

Avoiding islands of bare ship’s deck

Grandad’s pale, battered face lit up

By the coal fire’s yellow flames


“Is that you lad?”

I’m staring at white discs

Where blue eyes should be

Fascinated, no movement, no sound

Just the deep scraping of rusty lungs

His hand fumbles in his mysterious pocket

Then reaches out and grabs mine tightly

How did he do that? Can he see?

I open my hand and there’s a shiny coin

As big as my palm

I smile

My grandad chuckles, which becomes

Spasms of rumbling lungs

And I know what comes next

Curdled phlegm from a life underground

Gets flung through the air

With astonishing speed, on to the fire

Where it fries and it spits and it screams


I’m sent outside to play

The broken water tub is still there

Its surface a block of opaque ice

A red breasted robin sits on a pole

Then he starts singing, just for me

Roger Ettenfield © 2022

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