Fatherhood

I am a tightrope walker
with my filled wheelbarrow
steered – nervous weights
before me – held dead-straight

You act as if you are
just another Harry Houdini
balanced above Niagara
for a long bet against gravity –
quivering inside – all of us do
when stepping so high

Such is fatherhood on days
of bowing mistakes
We have no diplomas
just higher circus learning –
without safety nets

Grandpa? Not Yet

Look! Waking white etens are tailwind-struck by onshore gusts. That tall flock of unfixed turbines. Into Kemptown they will march by France’s orders beyond La Manche ..

A readied Grandpa story – not yet –

not now – not pinned – not aligned
above high tides by unseen wordy fixings –
by birthdays – yet again – by cakes with candles

blown out – Once more – and finally out
Those one-legged giants were plummeted
into cedings – by borings into seabeds

through lost layers of petrified trees
into our once-forests washed off-shore
Let me tell giant stories to your children –

about hundreds of acres before this began
Our grandchildren do need to learn
that history is scribed beyond this land

The Riverside Cafe – Lewes

That water-spinning hum
in The Riverside Cafe –
of draining dishwashers
and coffee machines –
is a prized white noise
needed by me to settle –

along with the welcomed
departure of a too-loud family
of urgent asks – of walking plans –
to wear their little monsters
down – nice and early
before unscrewing the wine

Counting clouds passes time
My children are left behind
and all my responsibilities
are dropped – as sticks off a bridge
Like letting go of wobbled bikes
Of not having to have an answer

Perhaps this areads my ageing
among us beige men of Waitrose
Perhaps this is my highest point –
aged fifty-five – twice divorced –
waiting at cafe tables to be served
by staff worth much more than me

My stick is impossible to store
in such places – a hook is needed
to hang my support – to stop it tripping
up those young bucks in aprons
Or I may lay it out at a reasoned angle
to trip those smug fuckers up

Competitors

Our house complains
of his heavy feet overhead –

quick as excited heartbeats
but then still-stopped

to my gone voice in our play
of Grandmother’s Footsteps

once commanding my son
to fix and freeze under

my quick look – that thrill
in his lost childhood – testing

his parents by such stealth
was an unplanned rehearsal

for these sometimes-days
of eggshell steps around us

We players of an adult game
without a joyous winner

A Moment – Now

In bed – laid on the edge of tears –
but we all are deteriorating –
so these are self-pitying tears
barraged by
this slow use of bagged words –

and you hum a short phrase
as the mobile phones light
our thicker faces

before drawn curtains –
still excluding the morning
and holding back the rush of time –

then
a text showing our daughter skipping
atop The Hoover Dam – she is lightened
by the scale of the world

as we discuss how this
truly affects the state of things –
once the daylight is admitted


The Best a Man

Let boys be damn boys
Let men be damn men
@PiersMorgan

Let our quick fists and sly cocks
damn us all –
Let young men sport superior
sneers and hate –
Let our sons expect the birth-right
to high esteem –
Let our male egos distend under
our close-shave chins –
Let our wives – our mothers –
our daughters –
Let them down by
letting ill-bestowed egos rule –
Let me not be damned

Students Don’t

They don’t throw parties
like we did –
no sleepovers in puddles
of puke and-or-piss –
or found shagging bareback
their best mate’s lover
They don’t sink pure vodkas
for breakfast –
no acid – nothing dropped
without a full appraisal –
googling its providence
Unlike their bad parents –
who took to partying too hard
with only the letter E to look up –
They don’t throw up like we did

Emptied

There was a tin of Swarfega
under the kitchen sink –
its opening the notification
of Dad’s tinkering

His wrenched weekend battles
with ageing Austins and Fords –
as an amateur mechanic –
were his ongoing wars

He was sometimes frustrated
by metrication’s foray –
and I was equally stumped
by his imperialist’s ways

He became a man of peace
as he stripped his oiled guns
with no sprung swear words –
loud expletives unsung

He would put his bearded cheek
onto the cold wood and weigh
the heft of barrel loadings
and teach his lungs to wait

The engineering of Brownings
he’d refit with no complaint –
in his hands and soft breaths –
he exhaled and taught aim

At the farm – with my boys –
I put up targets with care –
There I taught them how to shoot
and shared my Dad’s zephyr

The Dark Room

They appeared on my phone
in a series of texts

those photos of photos
you unearthed in a drawer
of our kids fifteen years before
we announced this ending

I wanted to steal those times
which chemistry had made
in the development of them
into glossy
but now cracking captures

My childhood remains
in one school photograph
alongside my brothers
one dead
one not talking

And in one other print I keep
of my father
holding me upright on a pony

His hand (for once) holding on to me

Slap

My father had thinning hair
and ever thinning teeth
and a quick temper

no fists
once a slap

when my year older brother
sliced the bathroom sponge
with Dad’s shaving blades

There had been general punishment
until us boys
the muted quatrain
then gave up the culprit

A loud slap
once
which never healed the sponge

The Ritual

The extravagant white bathrobe,
bagged from a boutique hotel,
her remains of a left-behind weekend,
just the two of them, her and him,
sunk in love, a deeper love than now.

That thick gown hung guiltily
on the back of the bathroom door.
She took it down and wrapped it around
her shoulders, careful not to knock
the tall knotted towel, her damp crown.

The application of creams was next,
and then, only then, she was ready
to be a wife again. And a mother.
Always a mother, no matter what.
She then saw herself in the mirror.


 

Park Football Parents

The sun momentarily exploded,
from behind fleet clouds,
then gone, sleet-showered,
a return to mourn-shift-shrouds.

Seven days before, without the ice,
this team was crushed in a one-sided match,
so in training our stick-kids are bellowed at:
– On to the ball!
– Off the ball!
– Down the line!
– Wide!
– Mark-him, mark-him!

The coach, never mellows.
Bunched fathers and mothers,
now soaked, are hardly talking
as the minutes dribble
to the end of the session:

Murmurs in the long-stood section,
– Is it ten, does he know?
Eventually, after extra time,
The coach lets them go.

We parents are first in the cars,
door-slammed, venting at nature:
Our dripping-kids stare at the sky,
and wish for release from failure.