A Poem by Kevin Reid

When not at work

you played The Stones on a red Dansette.
Your rooster strut and pose just like Mick Jagger,
chequered shirt loose around your shoulders.

When you upgraded to a Philips stereo,
you pushed back the three piece suite,
took my hands and birled to Mantovani.

While mum prepared dinner, you performed
magic tricks, made pennies disappear and
recovered them from behind my ear.

You made me a ring from an old shilling.
Told me it was illegal to deface the crown.
I was awestruck.

You carved me a sword out of soft wood.
Rab MacMillan broke it. You repaired it
with a matchstick and Araldite precision.

You made sure I learned the words to Four Green Fields;
the rebel record you smuggled from Belfast. I felt safe
when you and papa got red faced with the troubles in Ireland.

You taught me how to dig out weeds, how to reach
beneath the roots so they wouldn’t snap,
told me off if they did.


Kevin Reid is a dad, who travels and works between Scotland and Greece. His poetry can be read in various online and printed journals including Prole, The Interpreter’s House, Ink Sweat and Tears and Under the Radar. A mini pamphlet Burdlife (Tapsalteerie) was published in 2017 and his latest pamphlet Androgyny (4word) was published in May 2018. A new pamphlet will be published by 4word in 2020.

Two Poems by Luke Palmer

Arrival

In the film, Amy Adams is muttering about time
as she masters its inkblots. I’m listening
to your guttural clench, your vocal fry
as each new breath discovers its chord.
Your forehead unknots, lips snatch or O
at something just beyond your range.
Newcomer, it’s unnerving to learn again
the way the world works; all my well-earned
aphorisms hauled out and reinspected
as if they could teach you anything. We’ve got it
all rearward, this pedagogy. What can you gain
from me who’s lost so much? Let’s lie together, listen
to what the world says, learn to speak it back.


Fingernails

Tonight we hold you up late ―
four hands gather yours one by one
to trim your fingernails. Each hilum
radiant against the scissors’ blade

falls to my palm, its snowflake edge
catches every dint and fissure of
a touch I’d thought soft.
Your milk skin is strafed with red

on your cheek, flywing eyelids shut
to this evening’s pruning. Some cut arcs
are smutted with fust, dark
where you’ve learnt of dirt

in miniature. I turn the peelings
like the mutes of some tiny owl
then watch them circle the plughole;
exceptional, new-coined fish. I feel

I’ve picked through something immaculate.
Our world’s too big now; my nostrils, pores,
armpits all cinema-large, our backwaters
grown inhuman, cavernous.

Perhaps that’s what love is, my
great benevolence for smallnesses.
I could fill rooms with hair, eyelashes,
and all the things we trim away.




Luke Palmer’s work has appeared in various places in print and online. His debut pamphlet, Spring in the Hospital (2018) is available from Prole Books and his first YA novel is due in 2021. When not looking after his two brilliant daughters, he can mostly be found in the writing shed or @lcpalmerpoet 

A Poem by Veronica Aaronson

Cold Calling

I dream about my father.  He’s young,
the goalkeeper for his regiment again, but
the pitch is pitted, covered in debris, 
like a war zone.

I wake mindful that today anything could 
happen, babies will be born, people will die.  
I ring and tell him how much I appreciated 
the fires he lit before I was out of bed, 
all the school shoes he polished, the bacon 
and eggs he cooked, the football matches
he took me to, how he managed to find 
the exact balance between rules and freedoms 
for me to flourish.

Silence is all he can muster – the opposition have
scored  before he’d realised the ball was in play. 
Finally, he gathers himself.  He clears the ball to 
the other end of the pitch:  Isn’t it terrible news 
about Charles and Di?  Poor old Parker-Bowles.  
He was in my regiment, you know.



Veronica Aaronson is the co-founder and one of the organisers of the Teignmouth Poetry Festival.  Her work has been published widely in literary journals, online and in anthologies and she has won and been placed in several competitions. Her first collectionNothing About the Birds Is Ordinary This Morning was published by Indigo Dreams in 2018 and has been put forward for the 2020 Laurel Prize. 
https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/veronica-aaronson/4594449130

Three Poems by Sarah L. Dixon

I will request peace and quiet (like Dad)

My Dad used to request
peace and quiet for Christmas.
We would laugh, sigh and ask,
What do you really want, Dad?

He would settle for less:
Extra-strong mints,
a bottle of Brut,
a chamois leather.

Now, stepping nearer to children
and chaotic Christmases,
I know what I’ll request and get:
a reply of childhood sighs,
end up with Extra-strong mints,
Charlie
and a chamois leather.

Now we have all left home,
Dad loves the absence of peace and quiet
on Christmas Day,
his growing family around him.

The Lakes, 1990

Short-haired,
I was always mistaken
for a lad in Maryport.

Madonna songs leap from the jukebox
in The Brown Cow, Cockermouth.
A roast for four and pints of squash.
Dad pays and we wait for his usual question:

Can I pester you for the mustard?

Said in such an English way, we laugh.

We trawl the cattle market boot-sale,
breathe the stench of scared cows.
The stalls flaunt Stephen King books,
roasting tins and pepper grinders.

We pass Wordsworth’s House
and the place we saw a factory fall,
stomp to the car park
in Peter Storm cagoules.
Unyielding leather walking boots pinch the skin
where my second pair of socks have worn through.

Sunday, Petrol Day

We know Dad has gone to fill Emma, our car.
Our noses press against the bay window
our heels are bouncing in expectation.

We have laid out two daisy-patterned bowls
ready for caramel, sliced thinly
and a dozen chocolate globes, crisp inside.

Dad always buys one Cadbury’s Fudge
and a pack of Maltesers.
We happily share them.



Sarah L Dixon is based in Huddersfield and sometimes tours as The Quiet Compere. She has most recently been accepted for Lighthouse, Pennine Platform, International Times and Strix #6. Her first book, ‘The sky is cracked’, was released by Half Moon Press in November 2017 and her book ‘Adding wax patterns to Wednesday’ was released by Three Drops Press in November 2018. Sarah’s inspiration comes from ale, dancing around her front room to 90s Indie, being by and in water and adventures with her son, Frank (9).

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!
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Sharon