when I go back

when I go back I ask
are you still there?
the memories drift down the river
remember the water on our toes?
I watch them from the chalky hill
remember the chalk on our skin?
they rush under bridges
I search for your reflection there
lingering past pubs and familiar places
we were without a care then
wending their way through the town
hand in hand the two of us and more
like a gang of gulls out on the piss
on the beach and under the stars
suddenly swirling high above the church
remember the shooting star on New Year’s Eve?
heads cocking from side to side
back to yours for more I remember
eyeing up the potential possibilities below
sneaking up the familiar stairs at 3am
unrecognisable faces in the crowds below
would we recognise each other now?
I was born here yet who do I know?
you left and now you are a stranger
searching under all the familiar stones
I leave none unturned
but of course no-one is expecting you
there are so many stones upon this beach
a dying man circling above his past
a dying man walking these empty streets
looking down at his own familiar loss
the sea breeze beckoning me
why not go there – head out to sea?
out – out to sea – but where?
maybe try your luck in a different land
and there will I be free . . ?

YOU and HER / HIM and ME

YOU made HER cry
I made YOU cry
YOU slept with HIM
I slept with HER
what was right for YOU
was wrong for ME
grow up YOU cried
I AM growing up I replied
GROW UP!
SHUT UP!

the divide grew wider

YOU despised HER
I defended HER
YOU defended HIM
I despised HIM
YOU blamed HER
I blamed HIM
HIM versus HER
HER versus HIM
ME in the middle
and little by little

things fell apart

WE all grew apart
YOU lost HIM
and I lost HER
HIM buried
HER married
YOU made ME cry
I made YOU cry
WE both cried
WE both tried
to pull US together

as the years went by


Thinking of you, dad

my father died when I was 7 and he was 37
I have virtually no memory of him
beyond photos and a few sketchy dreamlike scenes
that may or may not have occurred
but oddly his ‘spirit’
(for want of a better word)
seems to find me on occasions
when I am least expecting it
again, this is probably of my own making
or related to some trigger event
but nevertheless it keeps me tethered to him
in a way that makes me thankful
that not everything in life and death
can be fully explained

Thanks to Jon for his poem this morning
that triggered mine. You can find it on this link:

https://jonstainsby.wordpress.com/2020/03/02/thinking-of-you-mum/

muy bien

I tear the photographs of me into tiny pieces
sort them into colours black and white
brown and blue, green and red and orange
faded like an almost forgotten Majorcan sunset
where we went to forget about Dad
and turn our lives into something new
I wasn’t quite sure what to do
I was only a kid

I glue the pieces of photographs on large sheets
of snowy white paper that is rough to the touch
freshly fallen with no trace of footsteps
as all childhoods should remain
but we know that’s not possible
the pieces are jumbled now
I make them into different shapes
that resemble landscapes

And I am there if you look closely
amongst the rolling hills and fields
a lost boy peeking out from behind trees
you see me waving from inside a cloud
no  angel am I
only torn pieces of photographs
thrown to the wind and scattered
confetti memories strewn

north (sons and daughters)

we travelled south
east and west
each taking a bone
to plant and tend
we grew great forests
gave them names
like laughter, love
tundra, teal

there were swans and lakes
hills and streams
swallows flew
dreams took place

and then one summer
years from then
I caught my breath
inhaled again
and there before me
on the shore
a skiff, a whale boat
nothing more

north (mother)

we found your bones
recumbent
in an abandoned skiff
bleached and burnished
wind weathered
but there on your finger
the ruby red ring
and around your ribs
intricately knotted
the matching necklace
identifying you
laying claim in this
wasteland grave boat
connecting us
in no uncertain terms

your sons and daughters
they built a fire
with driftwood and dried kelp
and using the stars for lanterns
sang your name until morning
when light shone
and you were at last
at peace

north (father)

we went north
where the whaling ships
once hunted – found them
rotting like beached leviathans
and on the shore
rocks and caribou antlers
great spikes seaweed draped
the blue grey background
inviting only to the brave
who would venture out
between the droplet islands
your wake watched
by black eyed monsters
and banshee winds in
howling caves

I never knew my father
his soul was cast adrift
when I was a child
but out there
and up here
I can still feel the roughness
of his hand
in mine
when I close my own
black eyes

my world is empty like a memory

I’ve been standing in your hallway
wearing only my bare soul
and the imprint of your fingers
on the letter that you sent to me
is like the debris from the songs
that you sang in the night to me

I’ve been sitting in your corner
in the chair that you kept free
when everything had escaped you
leaving holes in your sanity
where the reflection of your face
caught the racing lines of raindrops

I’ve been lying on your cold bed
now that everything is silenced
and the birds have stopped singing
from the branches of the tall tree
that scraped its fingers on your window
in a scene I keep repeating over and over

I’ve been walking from your eyes
staring at the sunlight that blinds me
that burns away my guilt and shame
all the leaves that are falling now
in the autumn of your passing
are collecting on the bare ground

where I have long been standing
holding flowers in my cold hands
not knowing what to say to you
as your voice slowly fades from me
I will never hear you quite so clearly
my world is empty like a memory

Daddy, I’m all grown up now

I am these bricks, potted flowers
cars, bikes, petrol mowers
my kids have bandaged needs
big trees and little weeds
favourite books upon the shelves
photos of our former selves
furniture in browns and reds
inherited from the family dead

I am this filing cabinet grey
of deeds, doubts, things to pay
carpet, laminate, papered walls
highs and lows, occasional falls
the view is mine, I’ve earned that too
it’s good enough to see me through
a bed, a wife, an attic space
lines now etched upon my face

I am these thoughts, written words
however crazy or absurd
a desk of pens and scattered notes
a lump inside this tired throat
the memory of when you were here
before you went and disappeared
I’m all grown up, nowhere to run
watching others have their fun

Summer Broke

Summer broke
With the snap of a twig
And a rattle of branches on our window

Witches claws you said
We snuggled back into an extra hour
Beneath the printed leaves on the duvet

And the sparrows on gutters
Rubbing beaks and telling tales
We later found one in the wood stove

Covered in ash as if cremated
Flew headlong into the kitchen window
I picked it up and held it to the air

Beak gaping open shut half dead
Eyelids open closing semi-conscious
It took a while before taking flight

These are moments to remember
Better than weddings and birthday parties
Your words not mine

I could never match your words
They came like sudden surprises
On the wind like birdsong and seasons

You kicked them about with childlike abandon
Autumn leaves lifted and scattered
Winter warmed behind scarves and mittens

We rode the storms together
Counted clouds and named their shapes
Ignoring what lay straight ahead

The cancer that came and took
Summer broken with the snap of a twig
And a rattle of branches on my window

Like witches claws you had said
The words now hollow echo in my head
Beneath this lonely extra hour duvet leaf