Three Poems by Angi Holden – a Fanfare Finale for Fathers’ Day

As we celebrate Fathers’ Day today, bringing Good Dadhood to a close for another year, here are three splendid poems by Angi Holden, with a great photo … to finish GD2021 with a flourish!


Is He Your Real Dad?

She understood the question,
its roots in biology and DNA,
though its significance had
always seemed misplaced.

Her friend saw his square face,
his solid jaw so unlike
her elfin features, her high cheekbones.
She saw only the smile which broke
around his lips and lit up his eyes,
the thrown-back head,
heard only the throaty chuckle,
rich as molasses.

Her friend saw his thick black hair,
a contrast to her fly-away blond wisps.
She saw only his laughter when at fourteen
she’d experimented with pink and purple,
his readiness to take on the school,
his refusal to accept her suspension.

Her friend saw his bull neck,
his broad shoulders, so heavy
compared to her slight figure.
She saw only the strong arms,
there to pick her up whenever she fell.

She’d never needed the narrative
of documents, of adoption papers.
He was the only Dad she’d ever known.
Of course he is, she said.

Pacing

The man treads the floorboards, pacing
soft as night across their polished surface,

the head of his newborn son nestled
beneath his chin. The boy breathes deeply,

emitting light grizzles between the rhythm of sucks,
his lips pursed wetly against a bunched fist.

The man pauses on the landing, listens
to his daughter’s muffled snoring from behind

a closed door. He knows without looking
she will be adrift on sea-dreams, surrounded

by rabbits and sheep, a purple elephant
and a ginger kangaroo – a menagerie of plush

in the arc of her bed. He picks his way downstairs,
avoiding the third tread, anxious its distinctive creak

will wake his wife. She needs to sleep, to heal,
to gather strength before the onslaught of a new day.

In the kitchen he runs the cold tap, fills a glass.
He swallows thirstily, feels the refreshing slide

of water down his throat. Standing at the window,
he waits for dawn to break across the horizon,

hears the first notes of the morning blackbird,
watches the precious pulse of his son’s fontanelle.


Saving

In a workshop I’m asked what I’d save
if the house went up in flames.
Life, of course, is already granted
like Desert Island’s Bible and dictionary.
So we’re talking possessions here,
those precious irreplaceables.

My mind searches across the rooms,
a midnight cat-thief assessing worth
or sentimental value, finding little
I’d be unable to live without. Things
I’d be sad to lose certainly, and many
I couldn’t buy again, even if I wanted to.

In the spare bedroom my mind’s eye
lights on a lidded box, pressed cardboard
a few shades darker than manila. If flames
licked round these walls I’d save only what
nestles inside: your Mention in Dispatches,
your medals, your Officer’s peaked hat.



Angi Holden is a retired lecturer, whose published work includes adult and children’s poetry, short stories and flash fictions. Her pamphlet Spools of Thread won the Mother’s Milk Pamphlet Prize. In 2019 she won the Victoria Baths Splash Fiction competition and was placed in the Cheshire Prize for Literature competition.


Angi with her Mum and Dad dressed for the Queen’s Birthday Parade

Looking Forward to Fathers’ Day


As we look forward to Sunday 20 June, Good Dadhood has some news to share!

A Special Edition for Fathers’ Day, 2020

As in previous years (2017 and 2020), Good Dadhood is proud to present a Special Edition. This year GD presents a rich variety of poems from Sarah J Bryson, Suzanne Iuppa and Val Ormrod … with photos. These can be read and enjoyed by going to this page: https://gooddadhood.com/special-edition-2021/

A Fanfare on Sunday

Before Good Dadhood closes for this year, there will be one more post – on Sunday, to celebrate Fathers’ Day with a fanfare featuring poems by Angi Holden.  Please check back then!

Thank you!

A big Thank You to all the poets who have contributed this year, making this a very happy and positive place to host, visit, read … and revisit! A big Thank You to all our readers too!

What next?

Good Dadhood is planning to open again for submissions in January 2022, so over the next six months you have time to gather together two or three poems celebrating fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers, godfathers … or yourself if you’d like to submit a poem or two about the joys of being a dad. A photo or two are always welcome. Details are on the ‘How to Submit’ page.

Meanwhile

Do check out the wonderful To Dads – with Love anthology which will make a superb gift to a special Dad! This anthology, published this very week, is edited by Aurélien Thomas, illustrated and designed by JinQue RD and published by Ayo Gutierrez … a truly international project to bring together poets to celebrate fatherhood. Proceeds from sales go to a positive parenting charity, especially supportive of fathers, and the book concludes with an impassioned essay by Aurélien Thomas about the status of fatherhood in current society. I was delighted to provide some poems for the anthology, and to write the foreword for it. It’s a handsome volume, as you can see …

Available from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dads-Love-Aurelien-Thomas/dp/B096TN7NN7 
Kindle version also available from Amazon

HAPPY FATHERS’ DAY ON 20 JUNE!

Two Poems by Mark Connors


Holiday


We’re in Scarborough. You’re the first one up, nipping for a paper. You’re wearing an unpleasant brown polo shirt mum got you from the catalogue. It accentuates your hardened gut. Everyone you pass smiles back at you. They always do. You get talking to someone about something. He finds you odd at first, your ease at slipping into lives for just a moment. But you’ll mark him with your levity, your charm and affability and you’ll move on before he wants you to. You buy The Daily Express. We don’t understand.  I like to get my news from the other side too, you say. You comment on the headline to the man behind the counter. On the way back to our digs, you get talking to a woman with a yapping highland terrier. You’ve been a postman for years but dogs still don’t like you. You walk back through the door as if nothing has happened.


I Like Birds


My father was a postman.
He asked a woman
if she would save him envelopes
from letters her sister sent from Ceylon.

He brought them home to me
so I could soak stamps off.
I didn’t care if they were franked:
brown-capped babbler,
crimson-fronted barber,
Legge’s flowerpecker,
white-faced starling.

I made up calls for all of them,
me, a precocious virtuoso of exotic birdsong.




Mark Connors is a poet and novelist from Leeds. His poetry pamphlet, Life is a Long Song was published by OWF Press in 2015. His first collection, Nothing is Meant to be Broken was published by Stairwell Books in 2017. His second collection, Optics, was published by YAFFLE in 2019. His third collection is due out later in 2021. www.markconnors.co.uk.

Three Poems by Ben Banyard


Big Boy Rugby

Such a little thing
when another boy
rips off one of your Velcro tags
but you run to me sobbing
as though a strip of pride is gone.

I wipe your tears away
on my shoulder
turn you around
gently push you back into the game
where he waits wide-eyed
to stick the tag back on.

Daisy Draws a Picture of Me

Look, Daddy! It’s you!
And it is, as she sees me.
An enormous, shaven, potato-shaped head
dotted with stubble,
eyes further apart than mine
but unquestionably mine; they’re wide
like hers and Jack’s.
The nose is far daintier than mine,
mouth narrower, lips thinner, but smiling.
The body is my favourite part,
much slimmer than decades of good living
have heaped on my belly and waistline.
She’s even drawn a tuft or two of chest hair
sprouting from the neck of my shirt.
We’re both pleased with it.


Swimming in Backwell 

He’s ready well before me, pale little body,
hopping from one foot to the other
as I stash valuables in my shoe.
 
I straighten his goggles, free the ear
bent double under the strap.
I’ve got my noodle, Daddy!
He waves the yellow foam tube at me.
 
Outside, it’s in the high 20s,
fields we drove past on our way here
are parched yellow by the roasting sun.
 
This clammy seventies building is cool,
it stinks of chlorine and feet
but there are no distractions,
no slides, no daft friends showing off.
 
It’s Prince Harry’s wedding day,
the pool’s deserted,
apart from us and a lifeguard.
 
I lower myself down the ladder.
Jack flings himself into the water,
shrieking at the temperature.
 
Come on then, let’s see you swim!
He tucks the noodle under his arms,
doggy-paddles away from me, feet splashing:
spladoosh, spladoosh, spladoosh
like the sound of good-sized pebbles
thrown into a canal from the towpath.
 
He turns and comes back to me,
neck straining and lips buttoned shut
against the water.
 
You did it!
He grins and does a little dance.
Can I do some jumping in now, as a treat?
 
I nod and his cry of delight echoes,
dives into our memories forever.



Ben Banyard lives in Portishead with his wife and nine-year-old twins. His third collection of poetry, Hi-Viz, will be published by YAFFLE later this year. Ben blogs at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com 

Three poems by Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe


The Caesarean


The door was shut.
A window – nine inches square,
strengthened with thin wire grid lines –
provided my father with his only way in.

He watched through pixelated glass
unable see them carve me, his baby, out.
Instead his eyes fixed on my mother’s face,
turned towards him,
her drugged eyes were open, staring.



First Hours


I was delivered by c-section,
then, my mother and I, both fast asleep

were taken to a room full of nurses,
one spotted my father, watching,

half-hidden in a doorway,
she called him in, handed me over,

and he held me,
pressed against his shoulder,

the liquids of birth
still smeared across my face.

He held me, wouldn’t let go,
refused to allow the nurses

to take me to the nursery,
or place me in a cot.

He sat – waiting for my mother
to wake up, wanting me
to be the first thing she saw.



Image on a Brass Lion


I catch a glimpse of us
merged for a moment
on a curve of lion.
The arch of its back
forces our two faces
to swim together.
Two Roman noses,
each with a nub
of bone along the ridge.
Our eyes,
once two separate sets of blue –
mine, periwinkle and watery,
yours, ink on parchment,
are now combined –
and for a second
I see with your eyes,
and I become the father,
gripping his daughter’s hand.


‘Image on a Brass Lion’ previously appeared in Magma, and in my Pamphlet ‘I have grown two hearts’ by Hedgehog Poetry Press.



Zoë has two pamphlets (from Half Moon Books & Hedgehog Press) and her First Collection is forthcoming with Indigo Dreams in 2021. Her work has appeared in various Anthologies and Journals. Her Dad is Ray. He is 75 and a keen Runner & railway enthusiast.
Twitter: @ZSHowarthLowe
Website: http://www.zshowarthlowe.com


Proud Father

Time Together

Zoë and her Dad, Ray

A Poem by Helen Kay



Bedtime Story


I sussed it. Walter Weasel painted the statue
because he let slip the colour – red, and
PC Pug never told him that. Dad grinned.

Dad wore a suit and I rarely saw him,
but at story time he was mine – reshaping
his boyhood heroes, Brer Fox and Larry Lamb.

He squatted on the pink nylon carpet
by my bed. A rubber fairy-castle
lamp defended us from Dennis Dark.

I curled up in the scent of Silk Cut,
but often Dad was first asleep and I
was left to complete his stories:

the one where Brer fox goes vegan
and Walter is an eco warrior
and I have learned to sleep without a light.



Helen Kay curates a project to support dyslexic poets (fb Dyslexia and Poetry). Her pamphlet, This Lexia & Other Languages was published by V. Press in July 2020. She has retold all her dad’s improvised and often repeated stories to her own children – with embellishments.

Two Poems by David Callin


Always


My father sang Always
as though he was handling
something delicate,

something his large hard hands,
agricultural,
might easily break,

so he sang gently,
wooing the song politely
out of its whorled shell.

His pitch was imperfect,
his ear was fallible,
his tenor less than certain,

and sometimes the tune skittered
like an ungainly beast
on too smooth a surface,

but he sang on, holding
that tune so carefully –
a humdrum melody

something like a psalm,
an efflorescence
of the working day.

My Father’s VE Night
(or ‘Victory in Salop’)


My father later denied
ever having told me
that on his VE night
he had pushed his bicycle home
all the way from Telford
back to the farm – he’d been
conscripted to the land,
digging there for Britain –
without ever quite managing
to get on and ride the thing.

Drink had been taken,
which does not sound like him –
I only ever saw
the occasional Mackesons
and the dutiful toasts at weddings –
but on this of all nights,
why would he not? I like
the image of him walking
his bike and himself back home,

like someone trying to reason
with a stiff and skittish horse,
or helping a wounded comrade,
a la Guns of Navarone,
who was saying go on, just leave me,
but would he? No, not likely.
Not a chance, old lad.
We’ll get you back to Blighty.

And I’m sure he told me that.
I’m almost sure he did.




David Callin, from The Isle of Man, explains that his father was a farmer and describes his own childhood on the farm as idyllic – for him and his sister, at least. Probably rather less so for their hard-working parents. His poem Always was previously published in Snakeskin and features in his first collection, also entitled Always, published by Dreich in 2020.

Two Poems by Rodney Wood


Defence of Houses


My father hidden in the tree
filled with sun and joy and love
My father dancing as the sun dances
with a bag of money and steel composing rules
My father carries before him
a glass of beer and there’s a bodkin in his top pocket
My father is neither a poet
or rich or important, instead he is everything
My father wearing a doublet
of fine lace, smokes a pipe and cheap cigarettes

My father sweating as he
delivers delicate blows with a wooden mallet
My father an untreated knot
and that’s him walking down the street in his white coat
My father slow as stars
working in the light, Saturday is sweets and wrestling
My father can be what he wants
now he’s left nothing behind
My father an organic porous
and fibrous structural tissue, so easy to recycle, to forget.


Military Organization and Administration


He spent his life at a brick built factory in Aldershot
The Wellington Works. Left home at after a fry-up
in the morning, while I was asleep, and came home 12 hours later.

I caught the bus to school at a stop in the Works shadow.
It looked forbidding, magical, a palace where men clutched
little brown paper bags and stamped their cigarettes before entering

through the little shed at the corner and its blue door
to the principality of Gale & Polden Ltd, Naval
& Military Printers & Publishers, by Appointment, founded in 1866.

I only went there once, in 1962. I was 9 years old.
Dad took me though the little blue door where a man
with a brown coat and flat cap smiled at me from behind a counter.

“This is where you clock in and leave your matches.
They do the printing here.” Machines on a bare concrete floor
stretching into the distance. Clanking, bangs, rattles and the smell of oil.

He showed me a giant wheel of paper, a revolving
drum of words, a machine where sheets were a blur
and yet came together as a broadsheet which men in blue skimmed.

“Hello Roy”, they shouted as we passed hand in hand.
We went upstairs to his glass lined office. He showed
me newspaper articles in neat rows on his desk and gave me a magazine.

“I was working on this all last week. The Lady. Glossy.”
Even then I knew all that belonged in the past
while I did my lessons and try to make it all right again.


Rodney explains that his father worked as a printer for Gale & Polden Ltd, Naval & Military Printers & Publishers, for over 30 years and the titles of the poems come from pamphlets they published, between the years 1890 and 1957.



Rodney Wood is the Stanza rep for Woking and his poems have been widely published. His father didn’t like talking about his sporting achievements, his single life (he married at 45) or the war. His father died in 2002 leaving behind cigarettes and medals.

Two Poems by Neil Elder



Things


Just like that cardigan you wore,
it shaped itself to your very being.
How is it that an old thing can carry
so much of a person?
The handle, worn smooth as stone,
somehow warm where your strong hands
held fast.
This spade, the remnants
of the dirt you lifted,
holds something of you.

I say your name quietly;
in dark purple blooms
not named by any botanist.



The theme is …


This is where I duck out;
the moon’s too big for just one person.

Give me a tiny moonstone to write about,
or better still, a moon shaped stone
that fits upon my palm.

Like the stone I took away from the shore
the day I gave an urn of ashes to the sea:
a trade that, like the tide,
keeps returning you to me.




Neil Elder’s full collection The Space Between Us won the Cinnamon Press Debut Prize, and his Codes of Conduct won their pamphlet prize. This year he has a pamphlet Like This appearing with 4Words Press. He occasionally blogs at https://neilelderpoetry.wordpress.com/