Open 11am to 8pm
Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday - Sunday from 11am to 8pm
"To my parents, Wilfred Arthur Lumley and Marjorie May Mills".
Recorded at Southbank Centre, 2013.
Yours pearls worn siren smooth,
no longer luminous, unlike
your grey green skin:
my mother - still beautiful.
I start gathering shells
as you lie dying,
selecting only the best.
For the altar bowls of oysters,
tinged with grey lustre;
strewn clam shells and bouquets
of periwinkles - soft bodies, now gone,
maybe drowned in the stomach of the sea
or buried in the sand.
I bring you the roots of sea holly
adorned by silver leaves to soothe,
maybe stem the tempest in your belly
before the carcinoma swells
your fish-like tissue and you body
flips in on itself one last time.
The instructions in bold letters state:
Serves 6. I consider the powder mix and milk
cycling in the saucepan, like Megan’s representational
designs of lemon trees. She is six years old
and reconciled to wait up for dessert.
I’m not really sure which direction to stir
with the whisk, and she’s not exactly my niece.
Megan gives me lessons on her mother:
the stovetop is starry night, the plastic cup
is gas station, the woman waiting tables is America.
We discuss the basis of courage: it’s all
in the chocolate pudding, she says. In rare letters,
her mother once wrote it’s the only thing
Megan manages to keep down when she’s ill.
Later, I read the wanted ads aloud because
that’s what her mother recited nightly to help her sleep.
My great-grandfather Richey Brooks
began in mud, at Moneymore:
‘A place of mud and nothing else’
he called it (not the way it looks,
but what lies under those green hills?)
Emigrated in ‘74;
ended in Drury; mud again —
slipped in the duckrun at ninety-three
(wouldn’t give up keeping poultry,
always had to farm something.)
Caught pneumonia; died saying
‘Do you remember Martha Hamilton
of the Oritor Road ?’ — still courting
the same girl in his mind. And she
lived after him, fierce widow,
in their daughter’s house; watched the plumtree —
the gnarled, sappy branches, the yellow
fruit. Ways of living and dying.