Tom’s warmest smile is the sun at its prime. He swaggers in his baggy trousers, pipe smoke drifting in whirls as he hums pitch imperfect. His satin smooth fingers tap the beat.
Tom’s a firebrand, risking quicksand; never the doubting kind.
Saturday mornings, the bell sings as he steps into the New Town Bookshop, slips down hushed aisles skims, searches, dreams. Eat your heart out, Bertrand Russell.
Sunday afternoons, seated with quiet son, chatty daughter, sharing rainy matinees, his eyes brim milk-moist, skin mopped dry with a crumpled hankie.
Weekdays, he hugs Gran, strokes Tweed, waves cheerio, twice, brings Nessie wildflowers on a whim; her family man, our gentle man.
Maggie Mackay’s pamphlet ‘The Heart of the Run’ (2018) is published by Picaroon Poetry and her full collection ‘A West Coast Psalter’, Kelsay Books, is available now. In 2020 she was awarded a place in the Poetry Archive’s WordView permanent collection. She reviews poetry pamphlets at https://sphinxreview.co.uk (Happenstance Press) and loves to daydream with a dram.
Those salt and vinegar days and freshly laundered nights pool in my mind, bucketed under ‘holiday memories with Grandpa’ revisited as often as the rain,
as familiar as pavement petrichor worn smooth as pebbles, yet short, sharp, distinct, their postcard length lines make me wish I was there again.
Memories of Grandpa
One gold sleeve garter, the donkeys bray, smell of wild garlic, spritzed with sea spray.
Your Underwood typewriter, Little Wuff stories, whispered voices in Bridlington Priory.
My hand in yours I’ll hold to this day, tucked up in my memory neatly folded away.
Kate Jenkinson is a Northern poet, Manchester Literature Poetry Slam and Squiffy Gnu competition winner and published in Covid and Poetry, Rainbow Poems and Eyeflash Poetry Journal. Kate performs spoken word at open mics whilst working on her pamphlet. She writes about science, nature, relationships and leadership.
your voice soft warm steady and there you are snug book on one hand daughter cradled on the other she is looking at you you point at the page she looks at the page smiles you look at her smile and smile your voice soft warm steady daddy bedtime reading
2. the music chair
guitar tuned you settle to play wee faces watch eager to catch the beat you foot tap riff and the audience shift leaping grinning wiggling clapping live music here and now in this room requests taken no need to turn on radio or ask Alexa here and now it’s daddy our music man.
and you’re both on the floor piles of files and folders teeter ribbons of paper surround you novelty transforms this chore grinning daddy feeds the shredder noise whirs paper paper paper flying floating coating the carpet soft hands clap as spirals of print spout little fingers tangle making bracelets bills secrets accounts turn to snow at the press of a button and oh again again again daddy while laughter soars
This is not a shelf unit
It is a monument to joy shared. Tiny sculptures take pride in this place, shelf on shelf on shelf, such careful constructions. Bigger more intricate each time. Diagrams consulted, eager eyes find delicate pieces, position and press to build lego, that daddy ordered late night online, thinking of this bigger each time.
Finola Scott’s poems are on posters, tapestries, postcards and published widely including New Writing Scotland, The High Window, and Lighthouse. Red Squirrel Press publish her pamphlet Much left Unsaid. See also Finola Scott Poems on Facebook. Finola is delighted to watch her son-in-law having fun becoming a fine father.
It was what he did when we went away for the day, made up sandwiches, egg, cold bacon. If we were being posh – salmon, a little bit of salad, lettuce, tomato, cucumber. It did not matter how far we were going, he took a kettle – a stove – the kitchen sink, everything so that we wouldn’t have to go in somewhere and pay exorbitant prices. We watched the fun, his excitement as he tried to light a Primus stove, in the wind and out in the rain, to make a cup of tea. Get a rug out of the car, spread over the wet grass, determined we would enjoy a picnic, despite dampness creeping up his legs as he handed us our treats.
in this summer brightness I am a pup again with Dad outside the garden shed as he saws to fix a step for me to mount the rocking horse whose head he crafted in the shed at his vice whose eye he painted and whose reins made of ribboned cord hang loose for me the mane an old brown carpet strip I watched him tack with care and did not dare to say I hated how it felt to me like cotton wool in Aspirin shiver and baking in the sun I shiver as if the future had come shadowed and adult he smiles at my impatience holds out his hand and I step up to his step
in the hut are his drawer of sharpened chisels the carefully adjusted planes the line of lasts from father down to me leather wax and thread for him to repair shoes I wear happily strike sparks from segs click click my way into today.
The Hut was first published in Brantwood, Cinnamon Press, 2019
George Colkitto writes for the pleasure of words. Recent publications are two poetry collections from Diehard Press, The Year of the Loch and Waitin tae meet wie the Deil and a pamphlet from Cinnamon Press, Brantwood, that place of Little Green Poems.
In front of the big house, a wall made long ago. Caerbwdi purple sandstone, solid standing greys and blues. Washed with soft green, colour of the moorland mists. In places rough enough to catch, scratch at my black school shoes. In places slick enough to slip on, polished by the slugs and snails. Here, I danced like a prima.
Below, a long narrow patch, spreadeagled to the sun, rows and rows of little fires. Dahlias, on the lam from Mexico, in my grandfather’s glowing garden. Growing fierce, throwing heat, bigheaded and blowsy but stupendous, just the same.
There he would be, hard hands snipping blooms, bending double from the waist, braces strained. Seeing the prima, he would stand, lift up his cap, dishevel his dark hair and from a pocket take his teeth, put them in and smile ceramic. Standing tall as Bendigeidfran offering the prima a bouquet of flames.
Bendigeidfran – A legendary Welsh giant.
Catherine Baker has been published by Prole, Stand, Snakeskin, Atrium and Amaryllis. She was highly commended in the Prole Poet Laureate competition 2020. Catherine’s poems in anthologies include Poetry from Gloucestershire, Ways to Peace and Pandemic Poetry. In the GWN poetry competition she was runner-up in 2018 and highly commended in 2020.
The House-Mothers arrive en masse recounting midday errands and after school plans
Sleep-filled Bengali Fathers have risen to pick up their kids before heading out
to deposit people in various states of comings and goings in various states
of inebriation. A couple of Grand-Fathers in tow with ‘her indoors’ complete the human
presence. The pigeons and crows are having their forensic moment
in the playground still. Everything is primary now; fun gives way underfoot
to tarmac foam speckled with stars with lines to the future. Is life meant for risk?
House-Father searches for his own time of grazed knees and elbows, latched on
to the uniformity of Klee Klamp piping dressed up in limpet kids.
An open door signals school’s end beaks twitch with a half second lift-off
to their own airborne canvas hoping for scraps after the rush.
House-Father remembers running towards his own Mother with an army
of hunger beside him – chirping squealing the only pure echoes of his past.
For my Father, life has ever been a braw bricht moonlit nicht But Lauder was no Burns for the Ayrshire Bard’s picture was a fixture on the shelf within a line of our kin. Though my Father never read poetry Burns was the man like Celtic the team whisky the drink leaving Scotland the means to go down South behind auld enemy lines armed with saltire crosses their brogue voices lilting the bars with songs for the displaced who wandered many a weary feet singing their way home for the sake of a fading time for the sake of Auld Lang Syne.
House-Father and three Work-Mothers go to show little children at school what to do when they grow up and make enough money to stop their own inevitable children dying from malnutrition. One mother is an actuary so can actually predict the future. But the way the world is so certain to end she won’t win. Not that it’s a competition House-Father tells himself sitting with a plate of homemade cupcakes in his rubbery yellow hands. His wife is going to tell the students she is an astronaut for she can see the earth is going to shit so they must recycle cardboard and not eat plastic to stop life coming to a roaring end. She’ll come last. On arrival House-Father is disappointed another Father is there, an opera singer who enjoys dominating the acoustics of the school’s corridors. This annoys House-Father no end as it deflects the children’s attention away from his brilliant presentation on the value of time management in the home. The kids love the cupcakes and enjoy blowing up the Marigold gloves, bouncing them on each other’s heads. He watches them do what they’re not meant to be doing knowing it’s exactly what they should be doing. He’s lost even though he knows it can’t be a game not when you have nothing to show for your troubles.
Peter Raynard is editor of Proletarian Poetry (www.proletarianpoetry.com). His books of poetry are: ‘Precarious’ (Smokestack Books, 2018) and ‘The Combination: a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto’ (Culture Matters, 2018). ‘Rumbled’ will be published by Nine Arches Press in 2022.
Stuffed with newspapers lifted from transport seats and bins, dad was a shopping trolley.
His tailor’s fingers itched for snip of shears and swish of a papercut.
Earpiece strapped to TV, snug in his deafness bubble, until pointlessly yelling, we waved in his face.
His control suite was stocked with paper, scissors, biros, paperclips, bulldog clips and Sellotape dispenser.
He sliced, spliced, stapled and bunched his evenings away with random clippings.
Health risks of eating fungi. The Odd History of Putney Sewers, Cure for Arthritis Found.
Each point circled, crossed, in red, black and/or blue. Sellotape, his glue of choice, was applied
to the base of kitchen units, fastened batons across doorways, as a DIY cockroach deterrent.
Instead of cheques to help with bills paper tokens came by post: Somerset’s Last Coalmine, The Power of Vitamin K.
My inheritance – a pile of twelve stuffed bin bags, ready for refuse collection.
I wanted to know if they’d left his teeth in. I never saw him without teeth. They offered me a sherry. I went in.
Low hum of air conditioning, two carnations on his chest, his face pillow-smooth.
I couldn’t look at his hands his elegant fingers and the crooked one from the accident before I was born.
I touched his arm.
Eighty-five, a good innings, said the nurse, giving me his hearing aids, glasses, his fake Rolex, still ticking,
his clothes in a black bin bag. As she handed me his credit cards I knew there’d be debts to clear.
Southport Tailor’s Magic Suit read the clipping; he kept scores of copies. One jacket to fit all sizes was his claim.
He hinted it was something to do with the way he cut the shoulders, but fearful of being ripped off,
its secret dies with him.
Magic Suit was first published in Girl Golem (4word, 2018)
Rachael Clyne’s pamphlet Girl Golem, published by 4Word in 2018includes poems about her father Nat, who migrated from Russia as a toddler and became a ladies’ tailor. Rachael explains, “Deaf since his teens, Nat was a character.”
Rachael’s collection, Singing at the Bone Tree, which won the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize in 2013 and was published by Indigo Dreams in 2014, concerns our broken relationship with nature.
flies to the surface with long-lasting memories, playing football in a sepia printed world, just me and you. I push the ball with my instep, back and forward the ball slides.
In the next moment we are having a pint together. Now your satisfied look has me breaking the rules for all-day smiles. We walk home and at the corner I see you turn and wave goodbye, happiness never dies.
TomKelly’s ninth poetry collection This Small Patch has recently been published and re-printed by Red Squirrel Press who also published his short story collection Behind the Wall.
Tom says of the poem “Happiness is a snapshot of me and dad together and makes me smile.”
In the twilight, I lie against my father’s chest, breathe smells of peppermints and sweat.
The chair creaks as we rock back and forth. Over his shoulder, I see wicker patterned with black squares.
He sings of sentimental journeys, bids blackbirds bye-bye. I lean my head against his ribs, feel their thrum,
hear the drumbeat of his heart, know I am sheltered, safe swathed in my father’s arms.
‘Shield’ was published in Susan’s fourth collection, Cloak (Kelsay Press, 2019)
I am three years old. Outside the house, the old magnolia tree stretches high into the sky. Foot on branch, hand over hand I climb up toward the clouds, believe that I can fly, breathe in the thick perfume of floating waxy blooms.
From the second floor window my father looks out, sees my reckless grin, blanches, races downstairs, stands there tall between the roots.
I know he’ll always catch me if I fall.
‘Net’ was published in Susan’s third collection, The Gun-Runner’s Daughter, (Kelsay Books, 2018)
Susan Castillo Street is Harriet Beecher Stowe Professor Emerita, King’s College London. She has published four collections of poems: The Candlewoman’s Trade, 2003; Abiding Chemistry, 2015; The Gun-Runner’s Daughter, 2018; and Cloak (2019). Her poetry has appeared in leading journals and anthologies in the UK, the US, South Africa, Mexico, and Luxembourg. Her poem ‘Bird of God’ won first place in the 2018 Pre-Raphaelite Society Competition.
You must have been seven. I’m in a home-made Father’s Day T-shirt that your mother organised,
that I carelessly only wore once, but look in the photograph rumpled, bronzed, happy. You cuddling up to me
on the Solent ferry, returning from the island, escorted by yachts engaged in a race. Now you’re a beautiful, loving
mother of two. That sweltering summer we only went in the sea after tea. Enclosed my mother in our embrace, a year after
my father died. The disco in the café when you all got up to dance: the last time I felt him at my shoulder.
Greg Freeman is the news and reviews editor for the poetry website Write Out Loud. His 2015 debut pamphlet Trainspotters (Indigo Dreams) includes several poems about his father, who was a former Japanese prisoner of war and put to work on the notorious ‘Death Railway.’ His father died in 1989.