for my mother
As the train crawled up the green girth
of the hill, you watched a sepia dream
turn Technicolor. The peak was ecstasy
when we imagined ourselves birds
till Sunday-dressed crowds plucked us
from our perch, to wind a driveway
to an aviary where real birds moped
outside a hotel moulting in the sun.
Nearby, Hindus chanted over coals
in an aluminium trough small enough
for barbecue. A garish-gold mosque
raised a mute loudspeaker to the sky.
On the next concrete contour, ringed
by scraggy bougainvillea in clay pots,
a Chinese coffeeshop squatted and spat
the fag ends of old men’s laughter.
Outside the shop was set up like a studio.
You wanted a photo: you holding a tendril
drooping from a wooden trellis, you posing
demurely like some film star in the fifties.
Why I did not ask afterwards, whether
you closed your eyes for a moment’s
commemoration or a blinding flash
of recognition that this visit was reward
for years of longing (granddad’s stories,
black family albums, wavy-edged
postcards)--to arrive in Paradise curling
at its edges--I don’t pretend to know.