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/