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
detached from any form
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
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.