As the Good Dadhood reaches its conclusion – for 2017 at least – and we look forward to celebrating dads on 18 June, Father’s Day, the Special Edition II includes a number of poems that I haven’t managed to schedule for the main page.
Thank you to the poets who have submitted these poems – and those in the Easter Special Edition – as well as the ones on the main page. Your support for the Good Dadhood project is much appreciated.
Poems in the May Special Edition include:
Your Whole Life Passes Before You
You will probably say we were in no danger at all –
they would have missed us and launched the lifeboat from its station,
but I can tell you the waves were the height of a bus
and if there was no risk of drowning it was a pretty good imitation.
And perhaps that narrow path up Cnicht was perfectly safe,
in regular use by hikers and even herds of cows,
but I know I was less than a foot’s breadth from a precipice,
and so terrified I could only freeze
and I’m grateful for these fear-etched memories to my daring father –
these mind-scenes set for reading and dreams:
deep sea, honey of clutched clumps of heather.
My Father’s Bear
Your lead model bear stands on my desk
in a space among pencils, chargers, staples and stamps
and when I try to arrange things in an orderly way
I respect his place beside a green glass paperweight
under the lamp, and feel his displeasure if I tip him over
which is easy to do as he stands upright, on small hind paws.
Home from the army, you took Bear from your pocket
placed him on the pub table like a small portable comrade
and said to my mother and me, ‘Let’s give Bear a drink’
your tankard angled to the leaden lips
of the little figure like a Roman household god
dug up from some once-dangerous outpost of empire.
I’d like a museum to display Bear some day
part of this British soldier’s personal kit
alongside mess tin, forage cap and Sam Browne belt.
But maybe I am wrong about all this. Maybe
that business with the bear was your kindness
to a jealous little daughter you’d hardly met.
Published in Pennine Platform
Sarah Watkinson has been writing and studying poetry since 2012 after a scientific career in plant biology. Her work has appeared in UK anthologies and magazines including Antiphon, Litmus, Pennine Platform, The Rialto and the Morning Star, and has been successful in several competitions. ‘Dung Beetles Navigate by Starlight’, her debut pamphlet, was a winner in the 2017 Cinnamon Pamphlet competition.
We’d been in France for a week,
complaining of the food,
bored by Caen.
On the last day you said,
the field I landed in
on D Day night,
it won’t take long.
You’d spoken of
the war sometimes –
jumping from racing lorries,
learning to fall,
legs bent, shoulder, roll
when you hit the ground.
But now you told us how
you first left home
by dropping in the dark
to arrive in France.
tears streaming up
between the shrouds,
boots, ammunition, helmet
shooting you down
into black fields
and rivers on
the landing zone.
in the sky,
like white confetti
at a midnight wedding,
consummated by drowning soldiers
in the glow of burning gliders.
For a moment
you must have felt safe
after leaping from the door,
only one way to go.
Of course we said, No.
His other half
As we drove towards
the crater and
volcano she explained
that if the driver,
next to her, had not
got a ring onto her finger,
before he left
she’d have married some
other man, maybe
a Destroyer Captain
whom she met.
So I’d have never
or only half of me
perhaps and that half
not knowing where
his other half was,
and all the while
my father held the wheel
and steered us
I could not see
from the rear seat
as he looked ahead
into the past.
Chris Hardy explains that his Dad was a paratrooper in WW2, dropped the night before D-Day into France. Growing pains recalls a family holiday in France many years later, when Chris and his sister were teenagers. The poem was first published in The Frogmore Papers and will also be included in Chris’s fourth collection, due for publication in 2017. His other half records a surprising revelation in East Africa by Chris’s mother, about what might have happened when his father was away in WW2. The poem was published in Wasafiri, and also in Chris’s last collection Write Me A Few Of Your Lines, (Graft publications, 2012).
Chris’s poems have appeared in Poetry Review, Stand, The Dark Horse, The Moth, the North, The Interpreter’s House, The Rialto and many other magazines, anthologies and on-line magazines e.g. London Grip, Ink Sweat and Teams, The Compass Magazine. His poems have also won prizes in National Poetry Society and other competitions. Chris is in LiTTLe MACHiNe, performing settings of poetry at literary events around the country, currently working with Roger McGough with whom they have recently made an album. Carol Ann Duffy has described LiTTLe MACHiNe as The best music and poetry band in the world. http://www.little-machine.com
Suave and debonair
on the hallway mirror’s viewpoint.
Brylcreem-slick, that wayward quiff
has aspirations – think Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis.
Weathered jaw line, razor-tame, Old Spiced.
Laundered shirt, worn
open-necked with the signature cravat,
always paisley, burgundy on gold.
Daddy’s girl, my angle’s blind
to a thinning crown, the comb-over;
a weak heart under peacock swagger – and
you’re taller, somehow, out of overalls
in slacks with knife-edge creases down
to spit and polish; hands in pockets
weighing small change possibilities.
You shrug your shoulders
into a houndstooth blazer, square
the broken checks of green and cream;
leather buttons left undone, token casual.
My formative years in toughened hands:
our lifelines grafted, till you learn the art of letting go.
20 Park Drive
Not a classy street address
but those budget smokes he switched
from cardboard box to nickel case
on Thursday nights. He’d posture
at the bar, cash-rich, effusive,
handing round his pay day fags.
By Monday, he’d be hard up, down
to dog end roll-ups from those saffron strands
recycled in a Rizla by his nicotine fingers.
He kicked the habit, in between
the crafty puffs at work, his sly ones
en route to the library, the corner shop,
returning on a cloud of Extra Strong
that barely masked his tell-tale breath.
The tittle-tattle matches dropped him in it.
Jukebox pumped for hits, I plump for oldies,
inhale the bar fug, wheedle seats for two;
take in the sepia stains on anaglypta walls that reek
of Snug and Ladies’ Lounge and matriarchs in hairnets
eking out their milk stout halves behind etched screens.
Elbows on the glass-ringed counter, proud,
you claim your patch, avoid the spilt beer; light up
an uncensored cigarette, relish its nicotine rush;
order cola, a pint of Best and a whisky chaser.
Easy company: the daughter on a flying visit, father
plied with refills till he’s whisky-winged.
Oiled, you sing On the Street Where You Live
for all the world as if you’re Vic Damone,
I have often walked on this street before
but the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before.
Heading south, I tune to pirate radio, drown out
all that stereo babble from the fledged nest.
Jayne Stanton, originally from Lincolnshire, now lives, works and writes in Leicestershire. Her poems are published in various print magazines and e-zines. She blogs at jaynestantonpoetry.wordpress.com and @stantonjayne is her window on the world of poetry (where she intermittently tweets from its sill). She has written several poems about her late father (natty dresser, secret smoker, crooner, grafter), including those published here, in her pamphlet, Beyond the Tune (Soundswrite Press: 2014).
((how things work))
I remember you explaining
about centrifugal force
when we saw Elvis on his motorbike
going round and round The Wall of Death
his quiff still intact.
You asked me if I understood
and I said, “Oh yeah,
but I don’t really believe in it”.
Which made you laugh
and we were always each other’s
best comedy audience.
Near the end you broke your pelvis
and when you were no longer at home to gravity
I leant back against the wall
and felt the ground disappear
trying to believe in something invisible
holding me tight.
((how things work)) was first published in Aireings, Winter, 2009
Laura McKee lives in Kent. She first started writing poems in 2009, inside her head, while pushing her fourth child in the pushchair, to and from playgroup. Aireings magazine was the first to publish her work, including this poem about her father who she had recently lost. Her poems have since appeared in Under the Radar, Butcher’s Dog, The Rialto, and anthologies including Mildly Erotic Verse (Emma Press). She was a winner of the Guernsey International Poetry Competition.
In the photograph: Laura’s Dad, Robert James Leach, in the RAF, WW2
Note of caution for a son going off to university
Of midnight encounters with the law,
of pubs that lock the inner door,
of too much detergent in the washing machine drawer
Of women who say ‘I’ll call you back’,
of botulism, Little Chef, Big Mac,
of dandruff, pyorrhoea, plaque,
Of the condom borrowed from a well-meaning friend,
of accelerating into an unlit bend,
of staying at the party till the bitter end,
please, be careful.
When mixing metaphors, mixing drinks,
avenging pranks, creating stinks,
studying all night or unblocking sinks,
at least try to be careful.
Of being self-righteous, intolerant of vice,
of being impatient, of being too ‘nice’,
and regarding poems spiked with advice,
son, be careful.
Note of Caution appears in the pamphlet, Wolverhampton Madonna (Offa’s Press).
Jeff Phelps’s poems have appeared in Stand, The Rialto, London Magazine and elsewhere. In 2001 he was second prize winner in the Stand open poetry competition with River Passage, a poem about the river Severn. His pamphlet Wolverhampton Madonna was published by Offa’s Press in October 2016. River Passage with piano music by Dan Phelps is available on CD and the app is available from the i-tunes store. jeffphelps.co.uk
Oriental Panama, Size 6 (redolent
with Bay Rum hair tonic and Craven A).
It features in the family snapshot album.
Outside the Grand Hotel, Scarborough, circa 1936.
My father, hat on head, playing the giddy goat,
balanced on one leg in an ornamental urn.
It could be a Scott Fitzgerald beach party,
striped canvas hut, cloche hats and panamas –
except it’s Filey, where the wind blows chill
A few years later. Our garden on a sunny day,
Clutching a small shawled bundle beneath
his arm, the tipped hat shows his jaunty pride.
School Speech Day. Playing cricket for
the parents’ team, white flannels secured
by a striped silk tie, and panama. My hero.
My wedding. Dad in morning suit
escorts me down the aisle, but he’s
not my Dad without the hat.
The final snapshot. Forty winks
in a deck chair beside the sweet peas,
his bald head shaded by the hat.
To keep me safe I keep my father’s hat
on the back shelf of my car, as he did
in his old Ford V8 on family outings.
Jennie Farley is a published poet, teacher and workshop leader. Her poems have featured in numerous magazines, her latest collection My Grandmother Skating (Indigo Dreams Publishing) came out in 2016. ‘An only child I was treated by my father as a boy, his chum, accompanying him to cricket and football matches, on country rambles, playing tennis, singing old music hall songs, doing crosswords. He taught me independence, perseverance, curiosity, how to drive, and Latin. He was the perfect Dad.’
Sunday at The Oval with Dad
We hear it coming. A hullabaloo
at the Vauxhall End hoorays into view
as a Mexican wave, and where we’re sat,
in the Pavilion’s top tier, the tuts
of the panamas morph into bathos
as the wave surfs anti-clockwise across
the West Stand. I can almost touch the qualm
becoming sweat that Dad exhales from
intrinsic dread at the thought of joining
in. But he mustn’t do disappointing.
Tanned to teak, he tips his sun-hat aslant,
drops the pencil, and for just that moment
mercurially resolves to live ad hoc:
we throw our arms right up to twelve o’clock.
When an oncoming wagon
hides in a passing place
and cedes right of way,
my father acknowledges
the driver’s politeness
not by showing a palm,
nor by giving a thumbs-up,
but by lifting his finger
an inch from the wheel,
like a Sunday-outing farmer
in a brand-new Mercedes
on the Causeway Coast,
who craves the spleen
of Country and Western
to snuff his lifelong ennui.
Matthew Paul lives and works on the outskirts of London. His first collection of poems, The Evening Entertainment, will be published by Eyewear Publishing in 2017. He is the author of two collections of haiku – The Regulars (2006) and The Lammas Lands (2015) – and co-writer/editor (with John Barlow) of Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku (2008), all published by Snapshot Press. He co-edits Presence haiku journal and has contributed to the Guardian’s ‘Country Diary’ column.