This is a poem about a memory. The poem describes the writer’s grandmother and the grandmother’s love for antiques and how she had previously had a antique shop, before having to give it up due to her age. The writer describes her emotion – guilt of how she wished she had gone out with her grandmother, and not been too afraid.
The poem is descriptive. The first stanza captures the picture of the antique shop which the grandmother kept. We get the impression that the grandmother was rather lonely since antiques is all she seems to have. – perhaps because these antiques remind her of life when she was younger? The way the grandmother watches her own reflection in the brass suggests that she was lonely. (‘She watched her own reflection in the brass Salvers and silver bowls’) I think because she seemed lonely, it created a sensation of solitude and a strong feeling of emptiness.
In the second stanza, the writer describes her guilt. She describes how she refused to go out with her grandmother. It’s like she did not realise how the grandmother must have felt at the time – but as she looks back – she realises and feels the guilt. As a child – you don’t realise how she might have been hurt by it, which makes the reader feel quite sad for the writer.
In the Third Stanza, the atmosphere of old-loneliness is brought alive – by the writer talking about the smell of the place. (The place smelt old, of things being kept to shut’) Also, the writer describes the smell of absences – which again creates the lonely feeling. The idea of things being kept shut, may describe the Grandmother, due to her loneliness, she may have felt she was kept shut. (‘The smell of absences where shadows come that can’t be polished’) I get the feeling that the grandmother is perhaps more lonely by the third stanza because the reflection that she once used to look at, is not there anymore. (‘There was nothing then to give her own reflection back again.’)
On the last stanza, the writer describes how she felt no grief at all, which gives us the impression that she wasn’t very close to her grandmother. (‘An when she died I felt no grief at all.’). It shows that the only emotion she had was guilt, which is sad for the reader. When the writer speaks about the antiques, (‘Sideboards and cupboards – things she had never used’) she compares it to the relationship she had with her grandmother.
I think that the writer wanted us to think about how when she was a child, she did not realise the loneliness of her grandmother and did not realise how much it would have hurt her, which applies to most children. I think the writer took interest in her grandmother more after she had died, which makes us, as a reader think about spending time with our elders before they die and not to end up like the writer did (‘A wish not to be used’)