Climbing My Grandfather by Andrew Waterhouse

I decide to do it free, without a rope or net.

First, the old brogues, dusty and cracked;

an easy scramble onto his trousers,

pushing into the weave, trying to get a grip.

By the overhanging shirt I change

direction, traverse along his belt

to an earth-stained hand. The nails

are splintered and give good purchase,

the skin of his finger is smooth and thick

like warm ice. On his arm I discover

the glassy ridge of a scar, place my feet

gently in the old stitches and move on.

At his still firm shoulder, I rest for a while

in the shade, not looking down,

for climbing has its dangers, then pull

myself up the loose skin of his neck

to a smiling mouth to drink among teeth.

Refreshed, I cross the screed cheek,

to stare into his brown eyes, watch a pupil

slowly open and close. Then up over

the forehead, the wrinkles well-spaced

and easy, to his thick hair (soft and white

at this altitude), reaching for the summit,

where gasping for breath I can only lie

watching clouds and birds circle,

feeling his heat, knowing

the slow pulse of his good heart.

Climbing My Grandfather by Andrew Waterhouse