In search of something

Looking up the ancestors

Tracing a family tree

Am I in search of them, my love

Or really in search of me?

Finding pairs of twins who married

Sailed off across the pond

Only to find in a generation

Home was what they’d scorned

Trying to cram onto scraps of paper

Names and dates and more

Wondering why they had chosen to scatter

Themselves from shore to shore

Picking over the bones of stories

Scraps of my family lore

Wishing I’d asked before someone passed

A couple of questions more

Chuckling over the old intrepid

Tales of derring done

The girl who ran guns in place of her brothers

As they’d only blab to mum

The lady highwayman; army driver;

Girl of a thousand smiles

The one whose paintings went down with the ship

The ones who ran quite wild

How would I fit, these elderly legends

How would I measure up?

Putting myself into clogs and sabots

Filling old boots with luck

Knowing the secrets that spring from boxes

Hidden on dusty shelves

Of births and deaths and marriage and proxies

Chicken-scratch bibles and tombstone kells

The hideous source of a score of quarrels

Love letters from the wrong side of a war

Black sheep and politics; actors and brothels,

Family heirlooms and so much more

Mystery facts are now uncovered

A lady who lied for years

Pretending to youth and no old lovers

To soothe a new husband’s fears

Learning why some names were missing records

During a time of strife

Who had migrated and waited and waited

For news of their family’s life

Postcards and poems and brochures and programmes

From concert and theatre and prom

Knicknacks and geegaws and troubles and trinkets

Collections they handed down 

Sepia prints and chemical glass

My ancient faces scowl

Melancholic in rented clothes

They are caught dead in now

Musical Chères

Searching for my roots
Through old records
I pause, ears cocked
For my muscle memory
Awaiting the right decade
Simon and Garfunkel
Soothe my silences
Leonard Cohen for my
Loneliest of nights
Lucio Dalla nostalgia
Juliette Greco and Piaf
For flights of fancy
Childhood Winters in Paris
With a pianist thumping
Square-toed rhythms
Ballet port-de-bras
Watery arpeggios to mock
High arches, pale faces
Pink noses and blue lips
With Tchaikovsky diluted
We shivered on the parquet
In a sea of legs and faces
Sprung floors and tall mirrors
Threw our joint grimace
To the feeble footwork
Of the adults at the barre
Then Fleetwood Mac’s
Rhiannon echoes past
The jazz records listing
To the left of the top shelf
And as the sound swells
I raise my hands, start to turn
Eyes closed, I dance
Delighted that for once,
Nobody is watching