Last Post

The months, to paraphrase Sylvia Plath, have glided by like ticker tape, and this poetry blog is not the only project of mine to have been neglected what with one thing and another.

I have been writing on and off, and have given the odd public reading, but nothing much – a lot of my time has been taken up with my terminally ill mother and my ailing business – it saw the economic crisis months before anyone else, and has been struggling, but I will find something to pay the mortgage, I’m sure!

This poem is about my father’s sudden death in hospital (in August 2007) – I wrote it this April, and choked up when I took it to a writing group and started reading it. However it is now over a year since it happened, and I feel it is an appropriate time to publish it on my blog.

The references to Last Post and sailing/travel images are references to my Dad’s 13 years in the British Royal Navy (where he became a Chief Petty Officer) and his love of travel. I did write another, simpler poem for his funeral, which I publish in the local paper on his birthday as a memorial – it ends “Sail on, you’re free, sail on.”

Am not sure of the literary merit of the poem, come to think of it, but feel I need to publish it to move on.

Last Post

We went into the room and saw memories cooling already.
Such slipped-awayness in his face, tube protruding
From a mouth newly language-less. How many breaths,
Kindnesses, harsh words, did those lips let go when
Blood still gave them colour?

A brother and sister stand with father
Like the ocean between them, standing on shores
That all his journeyings could not undistance. Like gulls they
Hover over his beached body, whalebone pale and colder with each
Tick of the callous clock.

Eye to eye for just this moment,
Last stir of embers in his flaming hair,
We stand as grief knits memory in our minds.
No last handshake but a kiss and then we leave his last post
And close the door on all he was.

A brother and sister drift away
And leave behind this man who gave
The gift of loving, suffering life.
Together and alone, tears and memories
Flow behind as we leave him in the wake
Of all the journeys she, and I, must take.

7 thoughts on “Last Post

  1. you must have been given positive feedback about last post by now, its great. I shall read more of your work and maybe even take a bit more notice of contemporary poetry. I love ‘undistance’. I love the way the timelessness of grave moments is captured, and yet also how at that moment one is minutely aware of self and time and space.

    I came across you looking for a twentieth century Welsh poet, I’m guessing a male, who wrote a poem about stumbling about drunk and pinching a police woman’s bottom, in the style of Dylan Thomas, any ideas?

  2. Thank you for that great, deep, and powerful poem. I really love your style… i wish that there is a chance for us to bounce poetic ideas off each other in the future. I want the opinion of a fellow poet so could you check out my poetry and tell me what you think:

    http://majesticlure.blogspot.com/

  3. As the daughter of an 87 year old I am trying to prepare myself for the inevitable loss of my father and knowing I never can, you have my empathy. In this poem your sense of loss is palpable and it brought tears to my eyes.

  4. Thanks for the comments – I’ve been very busy as my mother died last month, she’d been ill for sometime – hence I haven’t had much time to moderate comments or even update, but these comments have inspired me to make a bit of an effort now, thanks.

    Rob

  5. Rob,

    Yesterday, I lost my father. My brother and I found him together on his sofa and I remembered your poem. It says everything I feel and would want to say. Would you let me borrow it please? Of course I will understand if you would rather I didn’t. I probably shouldn’t ask.

    Wishing you well. Lesley

  6. I am sorry to hear that Lesley, feel free to borrow the poem.

    I still haven’t updated the site – too much happening, I might try to post the poems I used for funerals later as someone said they were a nice alternative from the stock ones some people use.

    My thoughts are with you at this hard time for you.

  7. Hi Rob,

    I wanted to email you but couldn’t find an address on your site. I just wanted to let you know that everyone admired your poem at the funeral and said how nice it was to have something different from the norm. My brother, especially, found it very moving.

    I have started writing again but only seem to have inspiration for the one topic – Dad. Guess it’s early days! Here are a couple of my latest efforts. I have a long way to go to match your standards. I wish there was a poetry group near me.

    Hope you are keeping well and the writing is flowing.

    Regards
    Lesley

    lesleysmithson@yahoo.co.uk

    Wish You Were There
    ——————————-

    When I was small, it seemed to me,
    That if I fell and scraped my knee,
    I’d need someone to carry me,
    You were always there.

    From you, I learned that I could be,
    Whatever I desired to be,
    I knew that you believed in me,
    You were always there.

    And when I reached maturity,
    You came to mean much more to me,
    My friend and father, equally,
    You were always there.

    In time, you slowed down physically,
    And sometimes you relied on me,
    But that’s the way that it should be,
    You were always there.

    Although it did occur to me,
    One day, you’d not be there for me,
    I hid from the reality,
    You were always there.

    I rang, you didn’t answer me,
    I hurried to your side to see,
    You sitting just where you should be,
    But you weren’t really there.

    You’d gone, you had abandoned me,
    I miss your presence constantly,
    And words can never comfort me,
    Now you’re no longer there.

    Meeting the Big Boss
    ——————————

    Sorry you’d to come at such short notice,
    You’re tired, I see, so I won’t keep you long,
    Time for me to ease your years of service,
    To make you work so hard for me was wrong.
    Muscles groan and ache from growing older,
    The mind wears down from trouble, stress and strife,
    Take my hand, it’s time to let me shoulder,
    The heavy burden of your daily life.
    For you, at last, deserve to be relieved,
    Of all the pain that living life can cause,
    Alas, your loved ones have to be bereaved,
    It’s sad, but one of life’s eternal laws.
    I’ve come to welcome you and vow to bring you ease,
    Step into my Kingdom, where you’ll find love and peace.

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