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.

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