Wild Life

by Mary Livingstone

Nearly thirty, and I might be ready for a grandparent again.
I dream of infinite staircases, burgundy carpets,
smooth banister posts topped with acorns.
Butterflies pinned in flight, eggs on the picture rails, on the treads, in the soil.

I loved you at five, collecting Pachyderms and Reptiles, Great Cats and Bears
in the basement, riding a rusty tricycle over parquet floors
as the rubber grips disintegrated on my hands. Wasted you at fourteen,

ashamed of the old S-reg campervan parked among the Golfs and Fords
when you picked me up after hockey,
mimicking your expressions: absolutely, goodness me, oh blow!

Watched at sixteen, as you changed in and out of green robes and navy clothes,
as the flesh sank from you, and the stories of lions in the veldt came mixed with morphine,
as you spoke of quinine and malaria, of chemistry tricks on teachers, of racehorses and ants,
of prising open your boarding school window and sneaking out to write poetry in the night.