Feeling the Wood of Father’s Bequeathed Desk

E.K. WALL

 

I opened your fawn drawer,

the one that you had locked

against floods, love,

misgivings and in a second I had

fled back through the darkness

of those long, vanished years.

 

I was again knee-high in flowers

with hot conkers veinless, yet

living, in my freckled hand. Brown

and round like globes turning

slowly in sunlight below the huge

chestnuts from where they had fallen.

 

Beneath your garden’s grass carpet roots

shivered and inched their perilous way

from their moorings, across lawns inbred

with moss and forget-me-nots. Unseen.

Just like the traits that seep from one

generation to the unfortunate next.

 

You were never there with me routing

around the packed borders or watching

the way that the sky changes when you

look at it from the earth beneath the swing.

You were always at a calculated distance.

Formidable. Far off. I couldn’t even say

what you smelt of.

 

I wish that you hadn’t left your smooth

desk for me, crammed with irrelevant

correspondence. I would have much

preferred the memory of your hand

on my shoulder through the dark times.

Or the smell of your starched shirt when I cried.

 

Maybe then I could have thrown off

this stiffness that permeates my iron

bones. Maybe then I could throw warm

arms around my quiet children.

Maybe then I could have untangled my

thin roots from their long distances.

 

‘Feeling the Wood of Father’s Bequeathed Desk’ was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition, April 2012.

 

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