For Dad

I remember scaling the tree trunks
that were your legs and making a game of it.
It was an expedition:
The Great Sunday Challenge.

Your lap, full of warmth,
always welcomed me.
We would read the News of the World:
there would be dark stories to know
and light cartoons for finish off
before I left you at the sports pages
so you could grumble about who lost,
who won—
and who just didn’t cut it.

Trailing behind you like
the extension of a long, multicoloured cloak,
we’d go to East Street Market for cho-cho
Electric Avenue for fish.
We both looked a sight
hunched over with the tools of Sunday Dinner
on our backs.

Christmasses provided the last patch of the year
for the Jackson Quilt: a patchwork of fun
friends and food.
You were the weaver of it all and I your apprentice:
we would prepare the day before, you and me,
skinning kidneys by the sink and gutting fish
or marinating meat.

Childhood innocence left me in a bubble of ignorance
but I was an astute child and I was aware.
The knowledge of it hit me like the stench of rotting food.

The fabric of our quilt began to fray
long periods of neglect left it with moth holes and stains
the stitching unraveled and in its wake were
long silences
cold dinners
muffled shouts behind locked doors.

God stepped into our lives and assuaged some of the pain
but He was unable to stop the schism
that left me with two houses to bounce between.
I always returned from yours with precious cargo:
cakes, sweets and crisps—the Health Message a distant blight in our future.

It’s funny, though, that now I’m grown
I still come for you with an expectation
rifling through your jacket pockets for buttermints
or an eclair.

My reliance on you for everything
keeps me young and candid in your eyes.
I see this most when I talk to you
about boyfriends and husbands;
the act of leaving your nest for good.

But when that time does come
I know for sure what I will seek:
a provider, a protector, a friend,
a man of God—

—someone just like my Dad.



(I’m performing this at church this coming Sabbath. It’s poetry night and the topic is LOVE: romantic, parental, divine, whatever. There’s another two that I may perform, and I’ve already uploaded one of them (Mr Right.) the third one will be up shortly)


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