the earth is bone dry and cracked under the shade
of the trees, a desert in this full yet so deserted place.
Three times a year we would come when I was a child,
with plastic flowers or a wreath at Christmas. I filled
up the watering can at the tap and watch as mum and
dad cleared off dead leaves, forced metal plant supports
into the soil, hoped the rabbits wouldn’t come this time.
A vision of dad spitting onto a tissue to wipe the bird
muck off the grey granite. Grandmother visiting once
and declaring that this is no place for a child to be and
me silently agreeing as I stood at the sidelines, hands in
pockets. We scraped our shoes against the pavement
as we walked to get rid of some of the mud on those
rainy days. I wondered what they all felt and what that
was like and I still do, years later, coming by myself,
a visit partly because everyone else is in Spain and even
the dead should have visitors on their birthdays, and
partly because I want to see if I can feel something.
I don’t. I don’t feel grief and I can’t force myself to
feel it no matter how long I stand and stare at my
name and his engraved in the stone, at red and white
flowers I never would have chosen, at the gold cross
and the platitudes I hate. I don’t feel but as a by-product
of that I feel guilty for not feeling and I feel angry that
I can’t feel and I feel jealous of all the people who do
I have never felt numb and I have always psycho-analysed
myself and I have always known myself, but to not know
him, and to not feel for him – I don’t know what to do
with that so I sit on a bench and enjoy the sunshine and the
grass and think about how emotional I usually am and how
much I have grieved for myself but how today of all days
I can’t shed a single tear for him, not even a drop
to dampen the cracked, dry earth beneath my feet.