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.