Poems Title

Visiting The Weightmans


In Nunhead cemetery

saplings smoke out of the organic dead

in trances, webs of spider branches

creep out crackling, dripping into sunshine,

bulletins in stone tell you everything succinctly.


This Victorian woman outlived her seven children

by sixty years. The little space of life between

each birth and death suggests her growing hope

that this dear child, surviving longer than the last,

might make it, but year by year they died,

the oldest six- they must have thought

she’d cleared the post, she hadn’t.

Imagine all that time alone

side by side with the empty space

where your babies should have grown.


The dog flourishes in between the stones

chasing the pungent odours of life,

rabbits, foxes, badgers, voles.

Crashing through the branches we startle

visitors who’d heard our whistle.

Next time we should dress up in long white nighties

and jump out-


and here are the Weightmans!

Harold twenty four, Marjorie twenty three,

Olive three, David seven months,

killed by enemy action in 1944.

A little family bombed out

in a South East London terrace just like mine.


I like to visit the Weightmans.

Their grave’s only recently been uncovered

by the cemetery restoration works, hidden all these years

under a reign of thorns like Sleeping Beauty.

No one to come and remember them.

Every possible descendent evaporated by that bomb,

So I read their stone and make them mine.


Harold, sleeves rolled up, mending his bike.

Marjorie making pastry in the scullery.

Olive tottering by her brother’s cot.

Sirens, thunder, darkness, black horse carriage,

then this place,

the creeping blackberries and birdsong,

sun between the smoke, me walking.