I myself have seen the wild roses grow upon the very ground which is now the centre of the borough of Bootle.

William Ewart Gladstone

This road I trogged to school down,
eleven-plus, in fluorescing socks
and Yankee tie; the solid end of town,
Victorian sandstone,
tall windows, doors-up-steps, attics
for cramping servants in. I drive
through blackened gates to tarmac where
a garden used to breathe, and ring the bell.

Always at home, the Auntie Sally I ask for,
fetched away from telly to be kissed. She thinks,
when I say ‘Mattie’, it’s my dad who’s come:
the same old hard-faced love, the same
old paid-off swaggering ashore, the same
old easy-come and easy-go.

She thinks, when I say ‘Uncle Ernie’, he’s
this minute gone upstairs, gone first, as he
would always do each Sunday after lunch,
warming her side of the bed with his broad back,
while she wipes dry just one last plate.

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