York in Poetry: A Sense of History

Posted on 24 November 2012 | Audio, Poem

Most families, I thought, kept them in cupboards;
most families, I thought, fed them with worry;
and most families know each time they pass that door
what lies inside it; most families I thought
bring them out shyly, proudly, for people they trust.
How it should be.

But not in the open, everywhere.
Dig down a little round here and you’ll find
one, or two, perhaps a cluster, promiscuous in death.
A bloke I know has a dozen under his kitchen,
and there’s one in the basement of a house near here;
we might have a hundred between front gate and back fence,
waiting to sell their stories: conquest,
settlement, quiet enjoyment, dusty death –
and what else in between ? in our house ?

Burying one’s own is one thing.
Living on top of other people’s private plot
is one skeleton too many – a sudden weight of history
I hadn’t bargained for when I took out the mortgage.

- John Gilham