When Good Dadhood first ran, back in 2017, we published a couple of Special Editions, in addition to the poems featured on the ‘front page’ of the e-zine. This year, we have much pleasure in again presenting an Easter Special, showcasing eight poems – by Simon Williams, Bob Woodroofe and Rosemary McLeish. Good Dadhood hopes you enjoy them.
Three Poems by Simon Williams
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.
When I woke
I’d go to them.
they were both asleep.
My father brought
me back to bed,
sat with me;
never told stories.
He counted –
one to a hundred.
to stay awake
just long enough
to see me
back to sleep.
My breathing soon
regular as numbers;
I never bettered
Counted Out was included in Quirks, Oversteps Press, 2006
First Weekend Away
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.
Two Poems by Bob Woodroofe
Things my father tried to teach me
How to tell what’s wrong with an engine,
just by listening to it running.
How to take an engine apart,
except I never paid enough attention
to how to put it back together again,
always ended up with a piece left over.
How to shoehorn a Triumph Spitfire
engine into an old Standard Ten.
In winter, lose all feeling in your fingers,
drop the last nut or bolt that lodges
in the most inaccessible place possible,
or disappears completely.
How and where to go fishing
and how to catch those fish.
Catch a rat in a trap and watch
it drown in a bucket of water.
Step on a pet mouse under the
dinner table with size thirteen feet.
How to weld with oxyacetylene.
Mix and use fibreglass paste,
to fill, rub down and spray paint.
Balance a pair of pistons for
your twin cylinder motorbike on
the foot-operated treadle lathe.
How to throw a spanner properly
so it bounces off the wall and
ricochets around the back yard
with that satisfying clanging noise.
How to take a punch
on the chin and see stars.
You’re not here now, haven’t been for years.
Oh, that I could have said a little of what I want to now.
If I could only listen to your voice again,
to all those things you never told me,
and all those things I never told you.
Where would we start, what would you say?
We were never that close, or so it seemed,
yet, I knew you cared, loved even,
although you never really said.
How about your early life? I never knew then
that you were born in Manchester, and the family,
before that, came from southern Ireland.
I’d no idea how they got there,
where they originally came from.
Your life as a lad in deepest Gloucestershire,
interrupted by the Second World War.
But you didn’t go due to your poor eyesight.
What was it like to have to stay at home?
If you had gone you wouldn’t have met Mum.
Where did you meet her, ask her to marry you?
Where were we, the children, conceived, and when?
My sister could have been a cold late January night.
My brother might have been an early summer holiday.
Me, born at Christmas, must have been the spring.
Born, bred and still living in the Vale of Evesham, Bob Woodroofe worked in the engineering, computing and environmental fields. He is inspired by the natural world and the countryside, its rural history and ancient mysteries. His work has appeared in poetry magazines and is performed locally. He has self-published several poetry collections www.greenwoodpress.co.uk Bob adds: “Why didn’t we talk when we were younger? My dad was there one day, gone the next. Too late, I only found out about him after he went.”
Three Poems by Rosemary McLeish
Zucchini Chocolate Cake
At the age of 80 my father confessed
to a terrible sense of failure. He had
not taken in the realisation that what
mattered in life was how you treated
your loved ones; he’d thought that
being a man meant doing well at work,
being famous, amassing wealth,
until it was too late and he had nowhere
to put his repentance, his need to
make reparation to his sons, and to me.
I was moved to comfort, to excuse him.
But really, he added, his main failure
in life was that he’d never owned a yacht.
Boyhood deprivation of material things
seemed to explain this aberration
(he didn’t even know how to sail).
Perhaps it explained too the fanatical
cultivation of zucchini, in double-dug,
deep beds, enriched with old newspapers.
Every summer my mother would wring
her arthritic hands over the on-going glut.
Zucchini pie, zucchini with fish, flesh, fowl,
zucchini omelette, zucchini fritters,
zucchini jam and her pièce de résistance,
her luscious zucchini chocolate cake,
the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted.
Most of the time, it was just the two of them
at home. Still he tried to insist that each baby
was left to grow into a mammoth marrow.
It was as if they might never eat again,
each zucchini making up for a breakfast
missed, a non-existent lunch, a day without food.
One summer she weighed every one,
realised she had to discover a use
for one hundred and fifty pounds of
these watery, tasteless vegetables.
The next year, she added zucchini
flowers to the daily salad.
I expect they’d have had asparagus
and pea shoots on the yacht.
My Father the Zoo-keeper
All the animals lived in his study,
so when the door was shut
no-one came out to play. Sometimes,
when he was out at work, and
the silence in the house was deadly,
I’d imagine what the animals
got up to while he was away.
The lion would certainly eat the lamb.
Gouts of gore would dirty the blue
floral carpet. The monkeys would swing
from the light fittings, gibbering,
picking lice out of each other’s hair.
Mice would leave pee-stains on the books,
parrots foul the piano keys,
a tiger skulk in the kneehole of the desk,
roaring so loudly I’d wonder why
no-one else in the family heard.
A polar bear would be staring
out the window, bewildered by the rain,
by the green and leafy garden below,
and a giraffe would try to eat the plant
that lived on top of the bookshelves,
knocking the pot down in a crash
of broken shards and spilled soil.
A unicorn would be crying to itself
on the Indian felt rug in front of the fire.
I worried about them.
How would they manage without him?
What would they eat?
Would he banish them because of the mess?
But then he’d come home from work,
trumpeting his cheery way into the study.
He’d crack the whip of his wit, and in a wink
they’d be back safe in their places,
in the books, the pictures, the ornaments,
the fire. And peace would descend
on the zoo behind the study door,
while I waited in the dark hall, my ear
to the crack, tummy rumbling till feeding time.
Hugging Henry Moore
Weekends were never easy, full of strife,
our home a source of stress, not solace.
We went to Pollok Park to escape, bickered
our way round the Burrell Collection.
Outside, an exhibition of Henry Moore’s
sculptures had come to rest, with paths
to each cut through the waist-high grass.
It was a wet and windy day, and I had never
liked his statues, too ugly, not on a scale
that spoke to me. Now, to escape the
claustrophic bickering, I went up close.
No-one was watching. The point of
sculpture being to touch, not look, I
touched. And climbed up, and stroked,
and cuddled in. Found a memory in the
response of my body to this bigger body,
these nooks and hollows, curves and solid forms.
I was a child again, having a cuddle
on Daddy’s knee, head resting on the pillow
of his paunch, back tucked into the crook
of his arm, feet resting on the ledge of his hip.
Snuggling into the crevices and mounds
of his body, tracing the adamantine frame
where the bone sits close to the surface
with my delicate, child-sized hands.
That early, wordless memory has never left,
my sanctuary since slotting my positive being
into the negative spaces of my father’s love.
Rosemary McLeish is an artist and poet, now living in Kent. Her first collection ‘I am a field’ was published by Wordsmithery in January 2019, and her second, ‘Defragmentation’ – poems written since her cancer diagnosis, two years ago – was published on 29 March 2020, again by Wordsmithery. She has had poems published in many anthologies and journals. Rosemary describes her father as a Dickensian character, full of fun and joie de vivre, a great comedian. She observes that he had another side – cold, judgemental, know-it-all, exacting – but when she was a young child, he mothered her. She adds that he is a never-ending source of inspiration.