Grandpa’s House

We spent our childhood summers in Grandpa's house,
among the creaks and groans we knew were spooks,
and sometimes in the dark, when we'd been specially good,
he'd take us to a field to see the stars.

To begin we'd find the one the others circled round,
that could guide a ship to north all through the night,
then he'd point out Mars and Venus, and the Demon Star,
and show us where the constellations were.

Then bath and up to bed, and just one fairy-tale.
At first we were frightened of the noises in the night:
'It's just the ghosts who warm the water
dancing through the pipes,' he smiled,

then told us how our ancestors, five thousand years before,
when they went to seek their fortunes in the world,
carried fire from their mother's hearth,
to light and warm them through the forest ways

and passed it on unbroken down the centuries to him.
Then he took us to an ancient boiler underneath the stairs,
'The soul of that old mother's still burning deep in here,
she's the oldest tree in the forest, she's our guiding star.'

And he let us look inside it through a crystal glass,
and her blue and savage eye returned our gaze,
then as a chill wind shook the fabric of the house,
a host of shining figures rose up behind her back.

'Look at the spirits of the families of our dead!
Their souls are burning bright and hard as yours,
they sigh and tap the walls at night to tell you all is well,
though their bones sleep cold and still beneath the soil.'

Then he led us back to bed and tucked us in,
beneath a cloud of quilts like setting sun:
'Now get your sleep so you can take our fire
to those who wait in forests still to come.'