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.
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.