Dad’s Dad

I always revered him as an exotic enigma.
perhaps selling sports cars in Monaco. or
skimming rocks in the Outer Hebrides
on a postcard I longed to receive.

his two-syllable name rarely tapped
mom and dad’s teeth. an air of hushes.
palms pressed into drum-skin.
muffled noise. the note had ended.

there were birthday cards. a yearly dabble
of his affection for us. some abstract noun
found by the circling of his pen.
his feelings were concrete.

vacancy glazed dad’s eyes.
some forgotten face he used to know
pushed hand through soil.
grabbed the scruff of his neck.

breaks in his smiled-sadness.
an involuntary huff.
the final crack in his veneer
when burying something surfaced.

tossed about his bedside. other cards
stood looking back on him. supine.
caught in a snare of suppressed memories
like some floundering fish.

somewhere between
my first and nineteenth year.
dad’s dad resurfaced. came into
our lives. time-traveller.

armed with gin-flavoured-fables.
a collage for the album I’d set aside for him.
or perhaps his question mark shoulders turned face
in a plea for help.

the cancer had hollowed him out. cored
his innards. termites tearing through
a tree trunk. lit his bellyache like a
Christmas tree we couldn’t decorate.

seventy-one years of life
pinned to hospice bedding
for the three months
I knew him.

I yearned for incantation.
fire and chanting to fix his rotten belly.
allow the lumbar of his back to peel away
from the pavement like a wet sock.

he was lighting roll-ups. pouring red.
still ill. ink-running through
the Birthday cards. mopped by my hand.
buried into dad’s shoulder.

Tom Guest

The Stars Are Still With Us

So I can feel again
the changing texture of light,
how it thickens to hold off hurt,
or rolls
           like blown glass
                                     illuminating

moss on beech-bark,
fungi on woodland floor,
plundered nests
                           wedged in leaf-fall,
you must
                 rise from your bed,
unhook your drain and leave behind
the neighbours you never invited,
shut for good the door prised open
like a wound in the night,
                                       leaving you
in no man’s land
between a dismal night light
and the near dark,
                             unable to see
or be seen, unable to distinguish
angels from ghosts.

If something holds you back.
walk to the window of your tall glass tower,
take in the unsurpassable view
of this city; note
                         after just a moment
at this height how this morning’s
pale liquid light spills over lives
still being lived, lives somehow
to be made numinous again.

Note too the stars
are still with us, bleached out
for now behind our local star,
but that at some point we’ll be able
to trace the light back to the path
which brought us here:
                                     back to
slow, sad waltzes round the kitchen table
as the nights draw in,
                                   to living faithful
only to the season we wake in,
happy to watch autumn undress
deaf to the threat she’ll never return;
trace it back to the lacerating kisses
of hailstones and the beauty
of winter trees;
to Inish Mor
                   on a day to die for,
freewheeling our bikes into the Atlantic,
only her salt-breezes holding us back.
Trust we’ll watch it fall again
on our garden
                       and know that sacred feeling
sitting first thing with a mug of tea,
the silence in the branches,
the soil warming beneath us,
the earth still buoyant below.

Philip Walsh

Extract from Saeculum

We rehearse our parting
like a stage performance

or farewell tour, where we
play all our greatest hits from

memory. We allow ourselves
one cover song but disagree

on which Radiohead closer,
because you like Amnesiac

more than anyone should.
Have you even listened to

the version of “Videotape”
that’s on From the Basement?

When the show is over and
the audience congratulates us,

I play an encore in my head:
you sitting across from me with

a bottle of Mexican beer and
a hand occasionally covering a smile.

We follow each other backstage,
our teeth bouncing off each other.

Sean Colletti