POEM FOR MY FATHER
THE NIGHT THE MUSIC DIED
He lay in the box quite comfortably
His waxen face staring into infinity
Looking much better in death
Than he ever had in life.
It was all that I could do to peer
At him through slatted fingers
From the back of the room;
The ever-present smell of tanning
And leather aprons absent now;
More than forty seeping years of it
Scrubbed away one last time
His moped – a natural progression from pedal power
When his legs gave out –
Lay discarded in the coal shed
At the back of the house.
(No driver you see, and mother still had the shopping to do)
He dug turf, cut down young Sally trees,
And turned over his bit of stony ground endlessly.
In summer he clipped sheep slowly
With a machine bought by post from Clerys,
Carefully stowing it away in its box
When the shearing was done.
The clay pipes he sucked on – their broken stems
Held together with blood pricked from his thumb –
Were redundant now
And his three bottles of Sunday-night Guinness
Would stand corked under the counter evermore.
Who would dance half-sets with her now?
My mother enquired of no one in particular,
The smoky saloon bar stunned that the music had felled him
Knocked him to the floor in the middle of the tune.
He lay there with a smile on his face
Knowing it was over
And I never got to know what was on his mind.
We put him in the ground
And sadness trickled through me
Like a handful of sand through my fingers.
Later, everyone stood around
Eating sparse ham sandwiches
While I stood there, dry-eyed;
He was a great man they all said
Slapping the back of my overcoat;
Sure he gave forty years to that tannery
And what did it give him?
I wanted to shout to the throng;
A gold watch and a tin tray
And both had his name spelled wrong