Father to son
There were fathers, I believed,
who played football with their sons,
or took them fishing, taught them
complicated games with loops of string,
or the names of birds,
or how to draw a horse.
Mine went down into his cellar
with its one red bulb. How he shut
the cellar door, said: don’t open it.
Not for anything. Just don’t.
Down there with his trays
of fixatives, his papers, tweezers,
his enlarger, clothes pegs,
strung lines of contact sheets
and images appearing
like buds unfolding, like skies clearing.
Never a picture of his wife. Or me.
Hilltop trees, streets of milltowns,
streams. Things. I inherit this.
This is what I do.
Unpopulated landscapes. Burned trees.
Still lives. Birds. Bones. Never
a living child. Sometimes
photographs of strangers
caught between before
Advice from a Singer Sewing Machine Manual from 1949
She catches herself sighing. Reproves herself.
Finds herself momentarily lackadaisical.
Tells herself quite sternly this won’t do.
Reminds herself about the consequences
of indifference. She has cleaned the house:
reddled up the oven, beaten all the rugs;
mirrors rubbed with vinegar, with soft cloths.
The silver and the brasses softly gleam;
the washing up is done. The china and the glass
are all a-sparkle. The bed is freshly made-up
with crisp clean linen and a hint of lavender.
She has carefully picked out a favourite dress.
A bottle green. It goes with her red hair
and her pale skin. She has allowed herself
a touch of rouge. She bites her bottom lip
to make it full, and red. She is anxious
that her visitor may not arrive. Her husband
is away, on business. In her mirror
she admires herself. She believes she looks
neatly put together. The sewing is a touch
she likes. He’ll like that, too. He likes demure.
His work has appeared in The North, The New Writer, Prole and The Interpreters House, among others.
His poems have won first prizes in competitions including The Plough (2013, 2014), and The McLellan (2015). In 2016 he was a winner of the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition.
He has authored four pamphlets: his latest is Outlaws and fallen Angels (Calder Valley Poetry, 2016).