Short and squat, a man in a cap,
rolled-up shirtsleeves, old trousers
encrusted with blood and bone,
boots dusted with powdered lime.
He bends double over the latest row
marked out with stake and string
to keep it straight, wields his dibber –
really a sawn-off fork handle –
swivels it into the tidy tilth
to make a little hole for a seed potato.
Later he’ll earth up the row
to encourage growth.
I watch, asking questions ‘what, why, what for?’
in the manner of a five year old –
each answer given
after measured thought:
“It’s a fertiliser. It keeps soil sweet.
Because straight is better than crooked.
Because each one I plant needs a little nest
to encourage it to grow up strong.
Because good Dads love their children”.
This poem came out of a workshop at Cheltenham Poetry Society’s Annual Awayday (writing retreat) in May. The workshop, led by David Ashbee, used wood and wooden objects as prompts. As I was writing my poems, I remembered my father’s dibber – hence this poem. Thanks to Dave – and Dad – for the inspiration.