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.