prodigal

come home
to where you are needed
we have left your old chair
at the water’s edge
still waiting

remember again the place of your making
long since forgotten

your father’s face
remember your home

your mother’s terrace
where you sat alone

watching for tears on a weeping fig
that she left in a pot by the door

a place at the table
kept down the years

unbroken

all has been left
wide open

Plums

I watched my father stooping on the path
to pick up all the rotten plums that fell
and made the old dog fart before the fire.

I took him to the place I used to dwell,
showed him all four corners of the forest,
took him to the shed that we might lunch
among the cobwebs and old tins of paint.

I tried to tell him where I had gone wrong,
tried, while breaking bread upon my knee,
to tell him he’d been right, right all along.

He smiled, while brushing down some fallen crumbs,
and said he must get back to clear the plums.
Now as the day recedes into the past,
I watch my father stooping on the path.

*

I want to know more, said M. Tell me about these plums of yours.

Not mine, I said. My father’s.

Your father’s then, said M., rustling some papers on his desk. Your father’s plums, do tell me please all about your father’s plums. It may help you get to the heart of things.

I’d like that, I said.

Yes, said M. Like a lettuce.

A lettuce? I said.

Yes, the pure white heart of a lettuce, crisp, firm.

There were no plums, I said.

No plums? said M.

That’s right, I said. No plums.

Pity, he said. I’d like to have talked about plums.

There are no plums upon the ground at midnight. There is only the silver path, swept of leaves, purple stained in blotches. Look! We can walk along the path together and into the quiet of the summerhouse.

I’d like that, said M.

[originally posted 16 June 2013 – the second part was added later. I have no idea who the inquisitor ‘M’ is or what this means, other than it demonstrates my opinion that lyric poetry inevitably contains fictive elements. It was written shortly after my father’s death but has little to do with my actual real-life father. After all, there were no plums.]

Quartet

1. The Intruder

I saw my father lying on the bed
and did not know him.

Not for me the intimacy of death,
more of a mild surprise really,
to find someone so thoroughly asleep
and feel like an intruder.

And when I heard their howls behind the screen,
it puzzled me. You see,
I longed to get away
and drive somewhere.

Much later, when they said it would take time,
I didn’t quite believe them.
I still don’t.

2. The Prowler

I heard my father tapping on the glass
as I slept one night upon the ruined sofa,
weeping again the King my father’s wreck,
as if to tell me something I’d forgotten,
like ‘Never give up’, ‘Always do your best’,
or ‘Don’t heed the hurtful things
the Queen hath said.’

Or had he just come back to say
I’d messed up big time
and if I’d listened to him in the first place,
none of this would have happened?

Parents, eh. Who needs them?

And for how long?

3. Plums

I watched my father stooping on the path
to pick up all the rotten plums that fell
and made the old dog fart
before the fire.

I took him to the place I used to dwell,
showed him all four corners of the forest,
took him to the shed that we might lunch
among the cobwebs and old tins of paint.

I tried to tell him where I had gone wrong,
tried, while breaking bread upon my knee,
to tell him he’d been right,
right all along.

He smiled, while brushing down some fallen crumbs,
and said he must get back to clear the plums.

Now as the day recedes into the past,
I watch my father stooping on the path.

4. The Ash Grove

The red house in the field,
over valley,
in the wheel of hill,
that goes forever rolling on,
will be there in the morning,
and will be there in the evening,
but my father has gone west
in clouds of ashes.

We tossed him through our fingers
in a circle on a hill
like campers shaking out
a morning sheet.

And we left him all in pieces
in a circle by some trees,
now my father has gone west
in clouds of ashes.