Dad takes me, sitting high in his Standard Vanguard,
to market for Mum then to the hardware store he’s known
since he was a boy. He chats with the owner, buys some
small widgets, for pence, totted up with a pencil stub,
to mend the leaking bath, fix a draught, complete the
guinea pig cage. I wander over worn floorboards, run
fingers through springs, magnets, wingnuts stored loose
in bins, inhale the musty scent of sawdust and machine oil.
Back home, he works on his lathe in the garage while I play
with rows and rows of jam-jars containing countless nuts, bolts,
screws, washers. Dinner’s at 1: cottage pie or steak and kidney
while the smell of Mum’s baking hints at tea-time treats.
Out in the garden, Dad wears his brown corduroy working
trousers, lights a bonfire, prunes roses, cuts the grass,
potters around the shed. I look on from my swing seat on the
apple tree, ride my bike round narrow paths between rosebeds.
Only if wet, when we have to stay indoors, am I allowed
to play the pianola. We pump the pedals, mesmerised by keys
moving themselves, as the roll of paper, peppered with
perforations, travels on round playing In a Persian Market.
Days of hot sun in a clear blue sky, we chatter along the
traffic-free main road to the post office, buy four choc ices,
carry back in a brown paper bag, share with bowls
and spoons on the garden bench with the others.
Sometimes, I hide, think he hasn’t noticed. He finds me
tucked away down the steps of the cool, leafy air raid shelter,
peeping out on his rows of carrots, radish, beetroot, onions,
wondering whether bonfires will always smell so good.
Nicky Phillips lives and writes in rural Hertfordshire, where she’s a member of Ware Poets. Her poems have appeared in Brittle Star, South Bank Poetry, and SOUTH; at Ink, Sweat and Tears, Algebra of Owls, The Lake and Snakeskin; and in various anthologies. In 2016 she was long-listed in the South Bank Poetry Competition and Commended in Cannon Poets’ Sonnet or Not Competition.