My Father Builds A Shed
- not just a shed, but a work of art – each joint
perfectly butted, all dowelled – not a single nail.
And lofty and strong and light!
You could stable a giraffe in there, with room to canter.
You could graze your beast on the roof
and it wouldn’t bow.
Father worked tirelessly –those dark years
in the shadow of the War dropped from his shoulders
as he measured and sawed and planed and hammered.
Watching him glide from wall to roof
I thought of Nijinsky, Sacre du Printemps.
Where did such skill come from?
I scratched my head. When it was done, he snucked
the door shut, folded his arms, and beamed down on me,
standing there like a fool with my jaws agape.
If he hadn’t been ten years dead,
I’d have hugged him where he stood.
Shorter than the rest of us but harder,
and sharp-edged thanks to whatever
it was she’d come through - not just
our skin, but the war and everything.
The hurt was brief but despite all that
the love was not.
No matter what they tell you, bear in mind
even a splinter can feel pain.
Who could be split from a branch
and not wake far too early, as she would,
decades after, in the deep of the night,
calling her own name?
My Mother as an Aspect of Weather
Diminutive in stature, she loomed over everything.
That particular way she moved through whatever
we called the world in those days,
pushing a pram, or silent in a book.
Her presence announced itself slowly,
blue-black as a bruise, heaped against the light
with the past all fine-lit before her and she
that great, slow ache, the pain
always about to break but never breaking;
our faces lifted up towards her own,
praying for rain.
Cawdor Churchyard - Born and Died 17/9/39
Stitchwort flowerless at the Big Wood’s margin.
Troops falling back from an eastern border.
That old sycamore shading the village shop.
Artillery fire. Greater woodrush. Katyushas.
My father hung me from his fingers the day I was born
and died. But it wasn’t love that kept me holding on,
it was only nature. Tell me, how can a mother’s grief
find purchase when you’ve never had a name?
Ferienhaus Kaapes, Holsthum
All night the closed flame of the tulips burned in the garden,
constant as that little field of candles in the Schankweiler Klause,
lit for whomsoever. We woke to the scent of woodsmoke
and frosted apple blossom. Later those three boys – three brothers –
rattling at the door: the dead come hurrying back
to remind us we will never be forgotten. And every bell
in every church tolling its particular silence; calling us to God,
to life, to love, as in the end the silence always will.