My husband’s grandfather, the jeweller

By Denise O’Hagan


So we may find ourselves

Taking on other people’s memories

Slipping on the mantle of their lives

Until they become part of us

And walk where we walk,

Second-hand shadows,

Like the memory

of my husband’s memory,

when we went back,

of that fastidious courteous man

who dealt in heirlooms and timepieces

with an eye for the piece out of place

so perhaps

I was primed to be affected

but anyway

when we pushed open the glass door

there we were face-to-face

with where he was no longer

in black-and-crimson spot-lit décor

and the practised smile of a well-heeled lady

asking whether she could help us

and while my husband, gesturing,

was getting into a laborious explanation

of the who and why and when

of our presence

I felt the clasp of the present loosen

and the facets of someone else’s past

in a silent clamouring for attention

press themselves in around us

and gestured him in turn

to be silent and take in our surrounds:

the padded trays and cabinets
of rings and bangles, chains and chokers

of lockets and brooches and beads

the sheen and the gleam

of gold against cream

amid gemstones on cushions of velvet

and in my husband’s eyes

a kind of desperation

until I saw him see, off to the right,

the curl of the old wrought-iron staircase

up to what used to be the working area

where repairs used to be carried out

how many used to be’s

where my husband’s grandfather, the jeweller

used to work.



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