Wheel Upon The Stairs


“She’s going to lose the house,” I said,
“My granddad did up that house:
“The back door is the original front door,
“The stained glass ships in the window are handmade,
“The wood panelling came from his boat,
“So did the wheel on the turn of the stairs.
“We’re gonna lose everything.”

I said this like I don’t have his watch,
His poetry books,
The lantern he was too sick to open,
The letters he sent me, each signed with
His signature.

But the house wasn’t mine, it was ours.
It was where we grew up,
Counting the stairs,
Navigating early life with a map of his stories,
Reciting poetry and always mixing up at least two of the lines.

And houses cost money –
Don’t I know it.
South bound alone
To grow.

I realise I don’t want the house, it’s too big for me alone.
But a builder wouldn’t know that the back door was the original front door.
Wouldn’t keep the Henry Wadsworth plaque that’s black with mould but matches the pattern in the
window when you clean it.
Wouldn’t know that the panelling and the ship’s wheel mounted on the wall came from the same
boat.

Maybe the wheel would stay.
Maybe it’s too big and cumbersome to take down, and it’d leave a hole in the wall too big and
cumbersome to fill.
Maybe they’ll leave it to match the pattern in the window.
Maybe a new generation of kids, a family I won’t meet, will grow up under her wise stare.
They won’t know that the man who put it there used it steer his real boat.
Maybe it’s okay to let them dream about it. It never felt real to us either, this old man with his
poetry books used to battle the weather on open water.

I pick through the letters kept in a biscuit tin until I find one where his signature is clear,
Each letter perfect.
I consider doing this by the light of his lantern,
But decide this little lantern is as much use as a ship’s wheel mounted to a brick wall.

We brace against the cold northern wind of growing up,
Our faces in lantern light that is fading with old memories
Aware that soon we will have to let go.
Thy comings and thy goings be upon the bosom of life’s sea.

About The Author

R. M. Phyllis (she/her) is a reading glut who procrastinates reading by writing and writing by reading. No book finds the DNF pile on her shelf, much to her own frustration.