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.
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.
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.