Two Poems by Sarah James

The Nook and the Knack

Once my dad would have
looked out at my back garden,
sighed and grabbed his tools:
mowing, weeding, pruning,
smoothing rough edges.

The ivy’s spread started
with my shed. A light touch,
at first. One leaf, and then another,
until the string of hearts grew
clasping, clinging, binding.

Its hold rotted the timber,
collapsing the felt roof,
but the structure remained intact.
A green patchwork
created its own shelter.

Decades later, it’s still growing,
still homing woodlice, beetles and spiders:
sturdy against the rain,
glistening with sunlight
and entwining new flowers.

This year, an ivy heart
has reached the nook in our fir tree,
where I sit snug between sunlit
russet branches, nursing
my troubled thoughts.

The wrinkled bark reminds me
of Dad’s weathered skin,
the crook between his thumb and finger,
his firm grasp planting a sapling
or steadying a nail for his hammer.

The knack of tools and fixing
worked into every muscle,
his fingers grip as tightly as before,
only slower, less determinedly.
I’m not sure if he’s come

to admire a little wildness,
or no longer has the strength
to tackle it.

Our Time

Handed on now Dad’s reached seventy,
his clock takes its place at the top of our stairs.

Its system of pendulum, weights and cogs
beyond me, the ticking’s an agitation I can’t quite

white-noise. I’ll wind the piece as shown.
Not because I need the dial’s numbers

or the hands’ circling to pace my days.
But because it’s Dad’s time, his giving it

to me: the unending tic of its tock
spells the words we feel but can’t speak.

                             

                

Sarah James is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer. Her collections include plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press), shortlisted in the International Rubery Book Awards, and The Magnetic Diaries (Knives Forks and Spoons Press) highly commended in the Forward Prizes. Although she hasn’t inherited her father’s love of gardening or clocks, she enjoys time outside, walking, cycling and exploring nature. Her website is at www.sarah-james.co.uk.

A Poem by Beth McDonough

The Hipster

(for Dad, and his new joint)

O, give me the firesides
of farting old fuckers, whose
crumpet kicks off
with cocoa and jam.

Eighty? He’s mine!
I’ll slot in just fine — take me home.

The Doric for socks?
I don’t give a toss, but I see
that they’re thick, and stuffed
into boots, which are scarily fuzzy
with Nik Wax. So who
is this codger who climbed
Cotopaxi, and is pictured with people
strung out on the Picos?

This rampant old grandpa swings
monkey ring things, high
Tarzans the lengths at the baths.

So soon, he’ll be stripping
off mockings of surgical stockings,
he’s ditching his crutches,
he’s clipping on crampons — 

The Hipster was first published in Seagate III (ed. Andy Jackson, Discovery Press, 2016).

Beth explains that this poem was written about her Dad (86) as he approached his 80th birthday … and a hip replacement.  She adds that, despite having subsequently broken his hip and femur, hillwalking in the Canaries, he probably walks more each day than most of his neighbours! 




Beth McDonough studied Silversmithing at Glasgow School of Art. After an M Litt at Dundee University, she was Writer in Residence at Dundee Contemporary Arts. Her work connects strongly with place, particularly to the Tay, where she swims year-round. Her poetry is published in Gutter, Stand, Magma and elsewhere. In Handfast (with Ruth Aylett) she explored experiences of autism, as Ruth examined dementia. Beth’s solo pamphlet, Lamping for pickled fish, is published by 4Word.

A Poem by Belinda Rimmer

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Belinda Rimmer has worked as a psychiatric nurse/counsellor with troubled children; taught the creative arts in primary schools and lectured in Performance Arts. Her poems have appeared in various magazines, including, Brittle Star, Artemis, Obsessed with Pipework, Dream Catcher, The Dawntreader and Sarasvati. Some have been published on-line with Writers Against Prejudice, Ground, Open Mouse, Clear Poetry and Picaroon. Belinda also enjoys writing short stories.

Dad’s Dibber by Sharon Larkin

 

Short and squat, a man in a cap,
rolled-up shirtsleeves, old trousers
encrusted with blood and bone,
boots dusted with powdered lime.

He bends double over the latest row
marked out with stake and string
to keep it straight, wields his dibber –
really a sawn-off fork handle –

swivels it into the tidy tilth
to make a little hole for a seed potato.
Later he’ll earth up the row
to encourage growth.

I watch, asking questions ‘what, why, what for?’
in the manner of a five year old –
each answer given
after measured thought:

“It’s a fertiliser. It keeps soil sweet.
Because straight is better than crooked.
Because each one I plant needs a little nest
to encourage it to grow up strong.

Because good Dads love their children”.

 

This poem came out of a workshop at Cheltenham Poetry Society’s Annual Awayday (writing retreat) in May.  The workshop, led by David Ashbee, used wood and wooden objects as prompts.  As I was writing my poems, I remembered my father’s dibber – hence this poem.  Thanks to Dave – and Dad – for the inspiration.

 

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Summer Saturdays by Nicky Phillips

Dad takes me, sitting high in his Standard Vanguard,
to market for Mum then to the hardware store he’s known
since he was a boy. He chats with the owner, buys some
small widgets, for pence, totted up with a pencil stub,
……..
to mend the leaking bath, fix a draught, complete the
guinea pig cage. I wander over worn floorboards, run
fingers through springs, magnets, wingnuts stored loose
in bins, inhale the musty scent of sawdust and machine oil.
……..
Back home, he works on his lathe in the garage while I play
with rows and rows of jam-jars containing countless nuts, bolts,
screws, washers. Dinner’s at 1: cottage pie or steak and kidney
while the smell of Mum’s baking hints at tea-time treats.
……..
Out in the garden, Dad wears his brown corduroy working
trousers, lights a bonfire, prunes roses, cuts the grass,
potters around the shed.  I look on from my swing seat on the
apple tree, ride my bike round narrow paths between rosebeds.
 ……..
Only if wet, when we have to stay indoors, am I allowed
to play the pianola.  We pump the pedals, mesmerised by keys
moving themselves, as the roll of paper, peppered with
perforations, travels on round playing In a Persian Market.
 ……..
Days of hot sun in a clear blue sky, we chatter along the
traffic-free main road to the post office, buy four choc ices,
carry back in a brown paper bag, share with bowls
and spoons on the garden bench with the others.
……..
Sometimes, I hide, think he hasn’t noticed. He finds me
tucked away down the steps of the cool, leafy air raid shelter,
peeping out on his rows of carrots, radish, beetroot, onions,
wondering whether bonfires will always smell so good.
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Nicky Phillips lives and writes in rural Hertfordshire, where she’s a member of Ware Poets. Her poems have appeared in Brittle StarSouth Bank Poetry, and SOUTH; at Ink, Sweat and TearsAlgebra of OwlsThe Lake and Snakeskin; and in various anthologies. In 2016 she was long-listed in the South Bank Poetry Competition and Commended in Cannon Poets’ Sonnet or Not Competition.

Special Edition II

As the Good Dadhood reaches its conclusion – for 2017 at least – and we look forward to celebrating dads on 18 June, Father’s Day, the Special Edition II includes a number of poems that I haven’t managed to schedule for the main page.

Thank you to the poets who have submitted these poems – and those in the Easter Special Edition – as well as the ones on the main page.  Your support for the Good Dadhood project is much appreciated.

Poems in the May Special Edition include:

Grandad – by Rebecca Sillence

Daddy’s Shoes – by Tamara Jennette

The Distance – by Aaron Wright … with a super photo

A memory – by Terry O’Connor

Uncle John – by Rufus Mufasa

Trapped – by Chris Willis

Keep checking back for other poems arriving before 18 June which might be added to the May Special Edition.
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What comes next?  At the very least, I think we should run Good Dadhood again from 1 January 2018 to 17 June – Father’s Day  2018!
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Thank you to all poets submitting to Good Dadhood – and to all our readers!
………
Sharon

Two Poems by Sarah Watkinson

 

Your Whole Life Passes Before You

You will probably say we were in no danger at all –
they would have missed us and launched the lifeboat from its station,
but I can tell you the waves were the height of a bus
and if there was no risk of drowning it was a pretty good imitation.

And perhaps that narrow path up Cnicht was perfectly safe,
in regular use by hikers and even herds of cows,
but I know I was less than a foot’s breadth from a precipice,
and so terrified I could only freeze

and I’m grateful for these fear-etched memories to my daring father –
these mind-scenes set for reading and dreams:
deep sea, honey of clutched clumps of heather.

 

My Father’s Bear​​​​​​​​

Your lead model bear stands on my desk
in a space among pencils, chargers, staples and stamps
and when I try to arrange things in an orderly way

I respect his place beside a green glass paperweight
under the lamp, and feel his displeasure if I tip him over
which is easy to do as he stands upright, on small hind paws.

Home from the army, you took Bear from your pocket
placed him on the pub table like a small portable comrade
and said to my mother and me, ‘Let’s give Bear a drink’

your tankard angled to the leaden lips
of the little figure like a Roman household god
dug up from some once-dangerous outpost of empire.

I’d like a museum to display Bear some day
part of this British soldier’s personal kit
alongside mess tin, forage cap and Sam Browne belt.

But maybe I am wrong about all this. Maybe
that business with the bear was your kindness
to a jealous little daughter you’d hardly met.

 

Published in Pennine Platform

 

Sarah Watkinson has been writing and studying poetry since 2012 after a scientific career in plant biology. Her work has appeared in UK anthologies and magazines including Antiphon, Litmus, Pennine Platform, The Rialto and the Morning Star, and has been successful in several competitions. ‘Dung Beetles Navigate by Starlight’, her debut pamphlet, was a winner in the 2017 Cinnamon Pamphlet competition.