flies to the surface with long-lasting memories, playing football in a sepia printed world, just me and you. I push the ball with my instep, back and forward the ball slides.
In the next moment we are having a pint together. Now your satisfied look has me breaking the rules for all-day smiles. We walk home and at the corner I see you turn and wave goodbye, happiness never dies.
TomKelly’s ninth poetry collection This Small Patch has recently been published and re-printed by Red Squirrel Press who also published his short story collection Behind the Wall.
Tom says of the poem “Happiness is a snapshot of me and dad together and makes me smile.”
In the twilight, I lie against my father’s chest, breathe smells of peppermints and sweat.
The chair creaks as we rock back and forth. Over his shoulder, I see wicker patterned with black squares.
He sings of sentimental journeys, bids blackbirds bye-bye. I lean my head against his ribs, feel their thrum,
hear the drumbeat of his heart, know I am sheltered, safe swathed in my father’s arms.
‘Shield’ was published in Susan’s fourth collection, Cloak (Kelsay Press, 2019)
I am three years old. Outside the house, the old magnolia tree stretches high into the sky. Foot on branch, hand over hand I climb up toward the clouds, believe that I can fly, breathe in the thick perfume of floating waxy blooms.
From the second floor window my father looks out, sees my reckless grin, blanches, races downstairs, stands there tall between the roots.
I know he’ll always catch me if I fall.
‘Net’ was published in Susan’s third collection, The Gun-Runner’s Daughter, (Kelsay Books, 2018)
Susan Castillo Street is Harriet Beecher Stowe Professor Emerita, King’s College London. She has published four collections of poems: The Candlewoman’s Trade, 2003; Abiding Chemistry, 2015; The Gun-Runner’s Daughter, 2018; and Cloak (2019). Her poetry has appeared in leading journals and anthologies in the UK, the US, South Africa, Mexico, and Luxembourg. Her poem ‘Bird of God’ won first place in the 2018 Pre-Raphaelite Society Competition.
You must have been seven. I’m in a home-made Father’s Day T-shirt that your mother organised,
that I carelessly only wore once, but look in the photograph rumpled, bronzed, happy. You cuddling up to me
on the Solent ferry, returning from the island, escorted by yachts engaged in a race. Now you’re a beautiful, loving
mother of two. That sweltering summer we only went in the sea after tea. Enclosed my mother in our embrace, a year after
my father died. The disco in the café when you all got up to dance: the last time I felt him at my shoulder.
Greg Freeman is the news and reviews editor for the poetry website Write Out Loud. His 2015 debut pamphlet Trainspotters (Indigo Dreams) includes several poems about his father, who was a former Japanese prisoner of war and put to work on the notorious ‘Death Railway.’ His father died in 1989.
He knows the place, the crop between the shallow hills, at the parting of a cart track or on a cliff’s narrow ledge. Each journey has a cost.
Barbed wire, brambles, a horsefly’s sting, his arms threaded with scarlet, the juice of sloes, wild damsons, plum, blood, his white hair invaded by leaves and burrs. This is his lot.
Once, upended by a stile and full length upon the grass, he found an orchid. A tiny slip of a thing, and never said a word. Others have tried to follow him on his wild scramblings, searched the fields at dawn but found nothing.
He knows the source, the lip of a well, buried beneath nettles, a chapel felled into a wood where he eats his lunch, back against the wind. He sees ghosts, but never marks them on his map.
This is a time before satellites, when people found their way through the world by marking it, pushing through waist high in bracken. He pushes on and down into the valley where the green covers his head like the sea.
First published in A Child’s Last Picture Book of the Zoo, Cinnamon Press 2012
Louise Warren was born and grew up in the West Country and now lives in London. Her first collection A Child’s Last Picture of the Zoo won the Cinnamon Press debut poetry competition and was published in 2012. A pamphlet, In thescullery with John Keats, also published by Cinnamon, came out in 2016. Her poems have been widely published in magazines including Ambit, The Butchers Dog, Stand, Poetry Wales and Rialto. In 2018 she won first prize in the Prole Laureate Poetry Competition with her poem The Marshes which appears in her new pamphlet, John Dust, illustrated by the artist John Duffin and published in 2019 by V.Press.
Louise writes that “He was very much a west countryman and worked as a Surveyor for the Ordnance Survey, a job he loved … his love of the outdoors is evident in this poem.” She has very happy memories of her father, whose birthday was on 17 April. Good Dadhood has pleasure in celebrating it with Louise here today.
I still see you now, standing behind the counter in your shop coat, with your eye on the scales, deducting a copper or two from the price for the poor, regaining it from the rich.
I can still see the columns of figures so neat and accurate in your ledger, your unfailing grasp, not only of numbers, but of economics and politics, far exceeding mine. You were not much older starting work as a grocer’s delivery boy than I was going to the Grammar School. I try to imagine you, your face pale under your flat cap, your frail body battling with the bicycle’s heavy frame.
After university I became a teacher; you both thought it would be easier than the life of a nurse or a small town grocer. My ledgers were mark books, attendance registers, the many pointless records governments demanded, my customers often recalcitrant. As time went on I found my satisfaction in helping students who were disadvantaged to realise potential they scarcely knew they had – trying, just like you, Dad, to balance the scales.
Jenni Wyn Hyatt was born in Maesteg but now lives in Derbyshire. She writes serious and humorous poems, also short forms such as haiku. Her father, Edgar Williams, 1905 – 1965, worked as a grocery assistant, grocery manager and wages clerk before finally owning his own shop.