My father was born on the 2nd of September. Here is a short prose poem about him. That so-called High Street was the Breestraat in the small Dutch town of Beverwijk, a few miles from the coast. In 1996 the building was last used as a church. When looking for a photo I came across a website offering accommodation. There is an apartment with a stained-glass window…
That Saturday afternoon my father had been drinking with the sales reps who had driven in to collect their bonus and, of course, being pleased with their bonus, they would have bought my father a drink. My father, being generous and liking his drink, anyway, would have bought them a drink. How the subject turned to hats, I don’t know, but around three, or three-thirty, my father came back home and picked up my mother’s hat, the one she would wear to church the following day: a large peach-shaped, red-wine-coloured, black-velvet-edged-bonbon-of-a-thing. I watched my father put on this hat and leave the house. I went out and followed him. The three sales reps stood outside the café at the end of our road. With the disdain of a Spanish matador, my father strode past them, heading for the High Street.
(published in Another LIfe, Oversteps Books, 2016)
As today is Father’s Day, I’m posting this poem by Kathleen Kummer. Here she combines the personal and the public, with her reference to the miners’ strikes and the General Strike of 1929.
My father’s hands
For a short time they handled a pencil, maybe a squeaky one on a slate. Abruptly, they, they found themselves grasping a pick in the dark. When the strikes came, obedient, they downed their tools and, at street corners, were clasped and breathed into for warmth, patted the greyhound of a mate waiting for the pubs to open. They withdrew their labour from the mine owner once and for all in the General Strike of 1929. In the next phase, though, still handling the black stuff, they weighed it, bagged it, loaded it onto the back of a lorry. Then it was clay pipes instead of coal, contorted monsters, drab, glazed brown, easily chipped.
This is the time from which I remember those hands, their dull sheen, as if sanded down, the skin agonisingly tight, with cracks, near the nails, manicured with a penknife, not made for tenderness and caresses, but good safe hands to be held in.
Last night, as I warmed my hands at the fire, I winced at the memory of his, held so close to the flames and hot coals, they almost touched so cold, they could never again be warm.
This week I am featuring another one of Kathleen Kummer’s poem. It’s short and the neutral title belies the heart-breaking content. The poem is addressed to her adult son.
You left behind: your silver spoon – there are days when I stir my coffee with it; the drawing of yourself with the Mona Lisa eyes; I sometimes wonder how you got the chestnut avenue from that angle, and I’m suddenly happy, as though you’d just sauntered in from school and were upstairs moving your table, shouting down you were hungry; all the photographs of you – if I flicked the pages fast enough, would those in the top right-hand corner, at least, spring jerkily into life?
Item: a bank account – didn’t you need the money? Your sisters; me. People hope I don’t mind them asking about you. As if in a language I’m learning, I say, no, I don’t mind.
It’s a great pleasure introducing this month’s poet Pat Edwards. We met on Facebook and then discovered we both have a book with Indigo Dreams Publishing.
Pat is a writer, reviewer and workshop leader from mid Wales. She also offers a poetry feedback service on her site Gold Dust. Her work has appeared in Magma, Prole, Atrium,IS&T and many others. Pat hosts Verbatim open mic nights during more ‘normal’ times and curates Welshpool Poetry Festival. She has two pamphlets: Only Blood (Yaffle, 2019); Kissing in the Dark (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2020).
Today is Mother’s Day in many countries. Pat’s dedication for Only Blood reads ‘For Mum and Dad if only we could all try again.’ Here are three poems from Only Blood, followed by Journey, from Kissing in the Dark, in Pat’s honest and compassionate voice.
The year Mum died
She is cutting tiny pieces of foam rubber to comfort-cushion her feet in pinch-painful shoes.
There’s that look in her eyes, the one I don’t yet understand, that gives away the cell-division in her breast.
She has a box of keepsakes I’m allowed to sift through: the silver clasp for keeping sixpences together; the golden compact that clicks open to reveal a mirror; the trace of bronze powder that smells like ladies.
Here in 1963 amongst the fullness of her skirt, I am barely five and only know I love her.
I want to find my mother’s jewellery, to lift the lid on a tin box of paste and pearls;
to find drop earrings that glint, necklaces that lie on collar bones, a charm or two for luck.
I want her wedding band, brooches that once fastened scarves, all the souvenirs and sentiment.
But I bet the first went to pay the gas, the second to buy the weekly shop, the third towards a gambling debt.
Teenage me always knew when he’d put on a bet. The channel would get changed, there would be an urgent tension, tight as a fist.
We’d sit saying not a word, for fear speaking would fracture us. Then, in the closing furlongs, I’d know for sure.
Dad would bounce on the edge of his seat, building from a hushed Come on my beauty! to blatant demand of it.
We would both urge the horse across the finishing line, jockey standing in his stirrups, cracking the whip.
Then the relief. Let’s get your hair done. I can buy you a new coat. As if I was my mother.
I draw a blue-black line under my eyes, trace it across the tattoo on my left arm. I watch it slide down the veins of my leg, to settle in a grey graffiti pool by my feet. That’s quite some journey I say out loud, so the man on the train looks up from his screen and glares at me like a priest. My thin mouth flashes a penance smile back at him and he absolves me I think. That’s quite some journey I say silently so the man in my dream looks up from his book and smiles at me like a friend. My full mouth offers him a lover’s kiss which surely changes something I think. I draw a blue-black line under everything.