Lying in the bath with the door ajar
I hear her voice clear in the next room settling,
chatting away, sounding out fragments of song,
and, as so often now, I think of you.
Was it like this for you with us? Smiling
off-stage: from infant to adolescent,
soft cooing to lofty pronouncements?
What did you think when you were lying there
absorbing that sudden sentence that floored
us all. ‘I won’t see his family’, you replied.
What if I’d sat beside you, vague hopes shared,
names we might’ve chosen you could repeat,
and I’d say how I’d love them like you loved us.
But those first choices would just be empty hints
and would it matter if you saw a future
false, like I search for this dream of a past?
Is there comfort in the touching distance
of your loss at the first steps of one year,
her arrival at the end of the next almost
beside each other like your name within hers,
and our last years striving somehow to connect?
We could have cherished, entrusted in the link
beyond the given bond of shared blue eyes.
Now a father, I see and feel more like you
than I ever knew; all you did, in the days,
and nights, the unseen love – the faith to live
knowing you won’t see the full story with
those you begin it by. It’s in gestures
we are remembered. How you were with us.
The life given; each gift time brings. The songs
you sang to me – the same songs that she now sings.
First published in The Cannon’s Mouth, March Issue 2017
When in search for something to make my own,
daydreaming self-worth with nothing but air,
how oblivious I was to your home-grown
craft. From youth, your needles never stopped
clicking; that comforting homely rhythm.
Colourful patterns, loose threads strewn by your chair.
Each day always making, always giving
for tomorrow: baby clothes, thick winter
blankets we now hide under; or soft
nativity toys we bring out each year.
What appeared everyday was made to last.
So, when you rallied, your resolution encompassed all.
Despite hope gone, your last day come, still you asked:
Tomorrow, would we bring your needles and wool.
First published in ‘Word Life’: Now Then, Manchester (online), ‘Hope’ issue 52, March 2018, and in Bonnie’s Crew (Autumn 2019).
You equipped us with pens and paper, not just
to keep us busy on long journeys, but to share
your own delight spotting nature. Birds. Rabbits. Deer.
The other hidden lives that surround us.
Yet years later, crossing the high border plains
battling the last rage of a week’s winter’s gales,
our swaying car passing overturned trucks,
we trailed blinking-wet brake lights, seeing nothing.
But on reaching you the wind dropped. Becalmed.
Numbness befitting those first days, sleepwalking
the long, dulled-glass corridors overlooking
the distant estuary, to your blinds-shut room.
No horizon. And within days you were gone.
We quietly retreated South. Routines resumed.
Passers-by in their own lives didn’t know
or care. Held hostage to our senses.
Curtains drawn. Missed calls. Cocooned reactions.
Divisions. Darkness. Darkness. All was loss.
It seemed an age. But out there, light’s gradual reach
thawed the ground to a misty breath. First, snowdrops
nudging through. Birds, skittish, hungry, unseen.
It must have happened because now, here we are:
the sky, a bright and brittle smarting blue.
The air a claw grip achingly unfolding.
But still too sweet, too soon; embattled, winter-braced.
What’s it all for, if not seen by you?
Days must be lived in. What else can we do?
First spring, then remaining seasons must come.
Remembering you anew with each altered one.
The first lambs are born. Let us count them for you.
First published in The Eildon Tree, Spring 2018.