Your Whole Life Passes Before You
You will probably say we were in no danger at all –
they would have missed us and launched the lifeboat from its station,
but I can tell you the waves were the height of a bus
and if there was no risk of drowning it was a pretty good imitation.
And perhaps that narrow path up Cnicht was perfectly safe,
in regular use by hikers and even herds of cows,
but I know I was less than a foot’s breadth from a precipice,
and so terrified I could only freeze
and I’m grateful for these fear-etched memories to my daring father –
these mind-scenes set for reading and dreams:
deep sea, honey of clutched clumps of heather.
My Father’s Bear
Your lead model bear stands on my desk
in a space among pencils, chargers, staples and stamps
and when I try to arrange things in an orderly way
I respect his place beside a green glass paperweight
under the lamp, and feel his displeasure if I tip him over
which is easy to do as he stands upright, on small hind paws.
Home from the army, you took Bear from your pocket
placed him on the pub table like a small portable comrade
and said to my mother and me, ‘Let’s give Bear a drink’
your tankard angled to the leaden lips
of the little figure like a Roman household god
dug up from some once-dangerous outpost of empire.
I’d like a museum to display Bear some day
part of this British soldier’s personal kit
alongside mess tin, forage cap and Sam Browne belt.
But maybe I am wrong about all this. Maybe
that business with the bear was your kindness
to a jealous little daughter you’d hardly met.
Published in Pennine Platform
Sarah Watkinson has been writing and studying poetry since 2012 after a scientific career in plant biology. Her work has appeared in UK anthologies and magazines including Antiphon, Litmus, Pennine Platform, The Rialto and the Morning Star, and has been successful in several competitions. ‘Dung Beetles Navigate by Starlight’, her debut pamphlet, was a winner in the 2017 Cinnamon Pamphlet competition.