Three Poems by Alwyn Marriage

As Good Dadhood culminates this Fathers’ Day weekend, the project to celebrate fatherhood closes with a fanfare of poems by Alwyn Marriage.

of hearts and hands

his hands
detached from any form
of domesticity

were never grimed in earth
or sheltering tiny moons of soil
beneath the nails

the softness I remember
was not the flab of soapy water
or chemical residue of washing up

I can’t recall a single scratch
or cut, the mild abrasions earned
by helping in the garden

despite the implications of all that
it’s still his hands that are
imprinted on heart’s memory

hands into which my childhood hand would slip
discovering the warmth, security and strength
he meant when he said God.

Home from home

In the garden there was an apple tree
in whose welcoming arms
I built a house made out of childhood dreams,

old, huge and branched into a thousand rooms.
It might have been a Blenheim or a Cox,
although, of course, I never thought to ask,

but every year it bore a crop of sweet and juicy fruit,
which to my unfailing annual astonishment
always caused a stomach ache if eaten when unripe.

In Spring my tree wore a scented robe
of palest pink and white that shivered in the wind
and scattered confetti on the ground below.

Hidden beneath green leaves it seemed to me
that no one knew my whereabouts or why
I was so late for meals and arrived with dirty nails.

My magic house contained a kitchen, bedroom, hall;
but far more comfortable was the study where I’d sit
for hours, as inaccessible as my father was in his.

Years later, my father dead and all my family
scattered into other homes, I passed the house
again and peered over a fence into the garden

where rooms still nestled in the open arms
of my ancient apple tree, but now looked smaller
and less commodious than when I was a child.

The old preacher

GS

For many years my father
had swayed his congregations,
moving them to tears and laughter,
and inspiring holiness.

When he was old and frail
he sat each day at the piano,
softly singing as he played
the ground-bass of his faith;

simple piety in melody and harmony
still firm despite the gathering gloom,
gems from his tattered hymn book
offered up as a form of prayer.

Earlier version published in Sarasvasti, 2017


Alwyn Marriage’s eleven books include poetry, fiction and non-fiction, and she is widely published in magazines, anthologies and on-line. Formerly a university philosophy lecturer and Director of two literacy and literature NGOs, Alwyn is currently Managing Editor of Oversteps Books and research fellow at Surrey University. She gives regular poetry readings and workshops in Britain and abroad. Her latest poetry collection is In the image: portraits of mediaeval women and her latest novel is The Elder Race. www.marriages.me.uk/alwyn

Alwyn explains that her father was a clergyman and a fine preacher. When he was too old to preach, he continued to write a new sermon every week.

Special Editions 2020


When Good Dadhood first ran, back in 2017, it featured two Special Editions, in addition to the poems appearing on the ‘front page’ of the e-zine.  This year, we had much pleasure in again presenting an Easter Special, showcasing eight poems https://gooddadhood.com/easter-special-edition-2020/.

Now, as the 2020 Good Dadhood period approaches its culmination on Fathers’ Day on Sunday 21 June, it is a delight to present another Special Edition, featuring five wonderful poems from Patricia Ace, Zoe Mitchell, JLM Morton and Jenni Wyn Hyatt. To read their poems, please click on this link: https://gooddadhood.com/special-edition-ii-2020/

Also, please do check back here on Saturday for three poems for Father’s Day from Alwyn Marriage.

Meanwhile, here are two lovely photographs from Patricia Ace and Zoe Mitchell … with their Dads.

______________________________________________________________________________

Patricia and her Dad

Zoe with her Dad

Three Poems by Simon Williams


Aeronauts

The wind is up,
tails are set,
with the long bands twisting,
we launch out to the air field.

The balsa gives
no weight to wind,
less weight than Matt, at seven,
floating over the road.

Tom, like Quixote,
tilts at model planes
with a bright red sword,
the smallest of the group –
like Reepicheep the most honourable.

The wind takes every throw,
strips tails and props
from our stormy games,
sends us crashing down to earth.

Flight fascinates –
light wood in light hands.
Boys will fly too soon
out in the humming air.


Counted Out

When I woke
I’d go to them.
Early-morning;
they were both asleep.

My father brought
me back to bed,
sat with me;
never sang,
never told stories.

He counted –
one to a hundred.
In between
his yawns,
he tried
to stay awake

just long enough
to see me
back to sleep.
My breathing soon
regular as numbers;
I never bettered
eighty seven.

Counted Out was included in Quirks, Oversteps Press, 2006


First Weekend Away
(for Tom)

The strangeness builds on him,
absorbs him and, with it, his expression,
til it’s only his eyes move,
refocusing, flicking the lids down
and coming back blue each time.

I tap the glass and his face awakes;
muscles stretch and pull,
quick as a wink.
He knocks back, in anger,
then bursts to smiles.

The train pulls out.
Inside, he can’t hear the engine;
the coach rolls on like a huge pedal-car.
They wave until their heads are only bright points;
two reflections in a long window.

I think of him, only parted a day
and not for long, can place him anywhere
in this tall house.
At the table, watching TV,
listening to stories.

We think of fear like a darkened room.
I will leave the light on bright,
keep doors a little wider open,
sleep a touch less deep,
in case of a cry, in case of a whimper.

Night is just the join
between two days.
When you wake, all thumbs and thighs,
I’ll watch a little closer
my child, my child.


First Weekend Away (for Tom)  was included in A Place Where Odd Animals Stand, Oversteps Press, 2012



Simon Williams (www.simonwilliams.info) has eight published collections, his latest being a co-authored pamphlet with Susan Taylor, The Weather House (www.indigodreams.co.uk/williams-taylor/4594076848), which has also toured in performance. Simon was elected The Bard of Exeter in 2013, founded the large-format magazine, The Broadsheet, and is currently developing a one-man poetry show, Cosmic Latte. 

A Poem by Catherine Baker


It came slow

Two years of evenings from winter
to summer and around again.
Surrounded in plans, wood shavings,
the smell of glue and cedar thick the air.
Hands hard, slick with varnish.
Pipe clenched between stunning teeth.
It came slow, this dreaming himself free.

He steered it down cow parsley lanes,
pushed it to float in the shallows,
raised the red sail.

Left his children life-jacketed on the shore,
his woman sulking moody in the dunes.
He lifted into blue flax looseness,
the white sky stroking his bony shoulders
breathing up salt sticky spray.
He skimmed, soared the sparkle
as mackerel flared and swooped.
Silver flashes under his feet.


Catherine Baker has been published by Stand, Snakeskin and Amaryllis. She has poems in anthologies such as Poetry from Gloucestershire and Ways to Peace. She was runner up in the Gloucestershire Writers Network poetry competition in 2018, and her poem was read at Cheltenham Literature Festival.

Three Poems by Susan Taylor

Two poems for my father, Harold Taylor

Easy does it

He worked with the soil
and with water
as well as wind and fire,
as an ordinary Lincolnshire farmer does,
the lift and the literal grind
of milling the grain
for hundreds
of head of stock.

It was a calling as natural
as his calling the cattle and sheep.
I was happy to walk
in the tread of his steps,
to gentle the beasts out of my way
when I fed them
at their mangers.
So, our life together was spent.

I remember him
walking the tilth with a hopper
strapped to him,
sewing out grass seeds
like an infinity sign on the air,
and scything
with the sweep and swoosh,
same rhythm as a man from way back.

Hand milking, morning and evening,
his voice rising
from the cowshed;
his baritone voice, just singing
in the comfort and shelter of cows.
The live warm milk eased out
for our table
and doting tortoiseshell cats.

And the lily shed;
my concern,
as a farm hand
stood with murring calves,
while he poured their essential share
into buckets,
a smooth stream
out of the churn.


Note from the poet: My calf rearing shed was called the lily shed because, when we took on the farm at a bitterly cold Lincolnshire Easter-time, we stored my mother’s Madonna lilies in there, before the weather was suitable to transplant them into the new garden.

Snow on the Dark Peak

He hardly ever wore gloves,
but I’ve raised a memory trace
of the time I held his hand
on a walk in thick snowfall.

He was wearing driving gloves,
the kind with string backs.
My connection to him,
awkward; the feel of pallid kid,

instead of the usual warmth
of his weathered brown palm.
So my first memory of his hands
is that climb on Kinder Scout

and my last memory of them
is seeing cold fingers threaded
each upon each, like lily buds
breaking over the end of his life.

Sandman

for Simon

Picture me on a beach with our children –
your children in newly liberated skins,
ready to play with you. Darling,

while you were away
we have run wild.

We have learnt to sculpt you out of sand.
Hold still – we are working on a way
to breathe the bones into you.


Easy Does It and Snow on the Dark Peak are both from Susan Taylor’s collection, A Small Wave for Your Form, published by Oversteps Books. Sandman was published in The Complete Bearded Stranger, Susan’s collection from Taxvs Press.


Susan Taylor began writing in her teens in the idyllic setting of her family farm in the Lincolnshire Wolds – Tennyson country. An ex-shepherd, she admits to having become something of a ‘turncoat’ now, with much sympathy for the plight of the wild wolf. She has eight published poetry collections, including ‘Temporal Bones’, published by Oversteps Books in 2106. Susan is a keen performer of her poetry and has developed and toured many collaborative poetry shows, including ‘La Loba – Enchanting the Wolf’ and ‘The Weather House’, which appeared as an Indigo Dreams Poetry Pamphlet in 2017.

A Poem by Sanjeev Sethi

On Father’s 69th Birthday

        In his hospital room


Everyone has a father  —
but only some fathers
sow the seed
for their sons
to break into song.

Historians chronicle
the cave-in of civilizations.
I can see your decline —
see it with precision and pain.

Father, you want to hold
the space you held.
But, is it my fault,
that your hands
now need me?


First published in Drunk Monkeys


Sanjeev Sethi is published in over 25 countries. He has more than 1200 poems printed or posted in venues around the world. Wrappings in Bespoke was a winner in the second Hedgehog Press Full Fat Collection competition. It’s his fourth book and is scheduled for publication in 2020. Sanjeev lives in Mumbai, India.

Two Poems by Z. D. Dicks

Vulcan’s Apprentice

Thunder jumps down stairs 
as wood quakes dust
and through walls
dogs tremble at booms 

The lounge door explodes
into a maelstrom of glances 
over shoulder to room
a squinting volcano hisses

I feel her teeth growl
clenched as slabs 
her rock fists impact
and inhabit my breath

Her claws uncurl, lava-arc
cut down as ash
skin ripples mountains 
red, and striped

I respond as ocean
lock fire in embrace
quash roars and bubble 
blood in laughter 

I tame her with a hug
and kiss the earth
that is my daughter’s head


Celebrate 

In a half-lit bedroom
springs depress
and a smile rises
over duvet horizon

Through cindered eyes 
hot tea fog-bellows
clunks on nightstand 
toast mudslides yeast

My son tears at gifts 
sinks hands as rocks
until boxes are hulks
that scatter to abyss 

We eat, as a family
as he unfolds envelopes
runs a finger over map
we see treasure laid out

X marks the spot 



Z. D. Dicks has had poetry accepted by ‘Fly on the Wall Press’, ‘Obsessed with Pipework’, ‘Salzburg Poetry Review’, ‘Sarasvati’, ‘Stride’, ‘Ink, Sweat and Tears’, ‘Three Drops from a Cauldron’, ‘Fresh Air Poetry’, ‘I am not a silent poet’, ‘The Hedgehog Poetry Press’ plus many more. He works tirelessly to promote poetry and is Gloucestershire Poet Laureate, founder of The Gloucestershire Poetry Society and Director of the Gloucester Poetry Festival. 

Two Poems by Maggie Mackay

Bring Back Dad Blues

There he sits in dusk in his favourite chair
and the fiddle comes jigging, jigging,
his fingers drumming Carmina Burana,
baton-hand Beethoven strings,
head nodding in a dream within my dream.

Tobacco tang swirls across his eyes
slipping like melt. Golden Virginia, a gold packet,
crackles to life. There’s a library book open,
waiting to be read. He’s walking, walking to what counts.

Walk to me.
Forty years of seasons and ageing,
and a blackbird’s song.


My Father as a Zephyr

Lightest of all things,
he blows in light of a perpetual spring,
scatters the salty Clyde with early summer breezes,
with seaweed fronds on soft foam,
fruit of our childhood holidays.
His soft stirring smile greets aquamarine.
His wind-song dances on fiddle strings, sotto.
The west wind restores dear ones
with a tease, a coorie-in, a purr.


Previously published by Three Drops from a Cauldron and nominated for The Pushcart Prize, 2017/18



Maggie Mackay loves family history which she incorporates into work in print and online journals. She is a Poetry Masters graduate of The Writing School, Manchester Metropolitan University. She has a poem in the award-winning #MeToo anthology. Others have been nominated for The Forward Prize, Best Single Poem ­­­­­­­­with one commended in the Mothers’ Milk Writing Prize. Her pamphlet ‘The Heart of the Run’ is published by Picaroon Poetry and the booklet ‘Sweet Chestnut’ published by Karen Little in aid of animal welfare. She is a reviewer for https://www.sphinxreview.co.uk/

Maggie with her Father

A Poem by Sheila Jacob

Something To Remember Your Dad By

Your sister writes and yes,
unwrapping the leather purse
and inhaling its sharp sweet fibres,

I remember how your Villa scarf
draped claret and blue
around the cubbyhole peg.

I remember your slippers,
overcoat, a crumpled hanky
that fell from its sleeve

all parcelled in tobacco-tang
long after you’d smoked
your final cigarette.

This purse you made
during the war, convalescent
from the pneumonia

that almost killed you.
You scored and stitched it
for your own Dad,

brought it home one weekend.
Perhaps he used it straight off,
counted coppers onto the bar

and you shared pints,
Woodbines, family news, the air
a sharp sweet fug as hours slid

away like beer down a glass.
Sunday came before you could blink,
the purse warm in his inside pocket

and you on Snow Hill’s
sandbagged platform, time to spare
before the night train’s judder and hiss.



Sheila Jacob lives in North Wales with her husband. She was born and raised in Birmingham and resumed writing poetry in 2013 after a long absence. She is frequently inspired by her working-class ‘50’s childhood. Her poems have been published in a number of U.K. magazines and webzines. Last year she self-published a small collection of poems dedicated to her Dad who died when she was almost fifteen.

Two Poems by Aaron Williams

Ba-Boom Ba-Boom 

To say you are a Junior Doctor
would be an overstatement.
To say you are fit to practise
would be irresponsible.
Your bedside manner
leaves a lot to be desired.
You break your Hippocratic Oath
at the drop of a hat.
You hand out prescriptions for Calpol
like it is going out of fashion.
You tell me to take some pills
for the slightest of chills.
You take my temperature
and tell me I am fine
even when the reading said 29℃.
When you check out my heart
you say it goes:
Ba-Boom Ba-Boom Ba-Boom Ba-Boom.
But I’ll cut you some slack.
You may seem like a quack,
but if I insist on a free medical
then I shouldn’t expect expertise
from a Doctor aged three!

Easy Pie 

Frantic mornings can make me grumpy,
got to get you both to nursery.
Get to the car we’re going to be late:
man, this is the time of day I really hate!
I’m seriously considering therapy
to make these mornings a lot less crazy.
But – a saving grace – you are but three,
which means you’re often very funny!
And this morning is no exception,
you always say something to break the tension.
And, as you’re so young,
you often get expressions wrong.
Like this morning, as I struggled to belt you in,
you looked to me with that lovely grin
and declared so happily: 
“Easy pie, daddy!”



Aaron Williams lives ‘in the middle of nowhere’ in mid-Wales. New to writing, Aaron is the father of a young girl and a younger boy who, he says, are exhausting and have changed his life dramatically. He explains “Dadhood sometimes feels like an existential sacrifice; forsaking your own previous selfish priorities in order to protect tiny, uncooperative and vulnerable humans. It is also the best role in the world, that puts a lot into perspective.”