Tag Archives: Father






My father’s sneeze always came in threes;
a series of escalating, shattering explosions.
We would watch the spectacle,
our amusement tinged with awed reverence.
The very air in the living-room retreated,
quailing from its impact. Our eardrums
reverberated from its echoes.
After the climax, he would look around,
skin flushed with a roseate glow,
eyes gleaming with exultation,
and release a laugh of sheer merriment.
The pleasure he felt from his prowess;
the thrill of its purifying power.

As I approach the age he was then,
I realize he must have appreciated it
as one of the dwindling catalogue
of pure pleasures, granted us
by our ageing bodies:
the simple grace of
a perfect bowel motion;
the cleansing burp,
lifting the heart;
the thunderous, brute
exhilaration of the fart;
the rare, yet still salvatory
spasm that signals
the (inevitably)
onanistic orgasm.

I sneezed while I was relaxing in the bath, the other day.  A sneeze is one of those mundane, everyday occurrences that you wouldn’t normally think about as a subject for a poem, but followers of this blog will be familiar with my habit of reading anthologies of verse in the bath, so bath-time, for me, has an automatic association with poetry.  Immediately after the sneeze, I began thinking about the curious nature of the event, and how everyone sneezes in their own, idiosyncratic manner.  When I sneeze, it is invariably a double event – the first sneeze followed immediately by a slightly louder explosion.  I remembered how spectacular my father’s sneezing had been, and realized that the sneeze could, after all, be the material for a poem.


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The Dread


A recurrent family scene;
long ago, childhood days.
Late afternoon; mother
in the kitchen.  My brother
upstairs, or in the garden.
My father in the armchair
next to mine, snoring, or
reading a newspaper.
Aromas filtering
through the kitchen door,
enticing our slumbering appetites.

Suddenly, a knock on the door.

Alarm, fear, immediate;
tangible as a dangerous
wild animal, now with us,
in the room.

My father jerks in his chair;
turns to me, and on his face
is a look of dread.
A dread I share.
Pure, strong; distilled,
from the earliest of times,
into my very soul.

The dread is still with me,
after all these years.
I hope to God
the old myth is not true:
the final portals;
the family ghosts,
all there, waiting for you.

My poem “The Dread” is inspired by childhood memories.  I’m sure that most people have memories of visits from family relatives, during childhood years.  I don’t know whether I was particularly unfortunate or not, but it just seemed to me, at the time, that our relatives never gave any warning of their visits, always arrived unexpectedly, and always arrived at the wrong time.  It may seem exaggerated to ascribe a feeling of “dread” to such humdrum family experiences, but I can assure you that my father – for whatever reason – did genuinely evince such feelings, and they had a real and lasting impact upon me.

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My First Poem

The death of a parent is such a pivotal moment in one’s life that many people turn to poetry – for the first time in their lives – to try to express their feelings and emotions in a poem.  This was the case with me, after the death of my father.  I had never even thought about writing poetry before.  I had always wanted to be a writer, but spent years trying to write novels, under the delusion that I was potentially a great writer of fiction.  After my father’s death, I had the idea for a poem, and this was to act as a kind of “trigger” for me.  I now find myself startled by the fact that, in the years since his death, I have written over 200 poems.

I often go back to my early poems, and usually end up revising them or completely re-writing them.  When I looked at “The Last Saturday” a few days ago, I realised, to my surprise, that I could see no way to improve it.  So here it is, in its original state:


“Open the curtains”.  My father’s voice.
In its pomp, a shout seared eardrums,
a sneeze violated sound barriers.
The effortless, lusty bellow drowned-out
“Songs of Praise” with hymns remembered,
faultlessly, from Sunday – Schooldays.
Now, it croaks, quavers.  The vibrant reed
now a dry, withered husk.

I open the curtains – gingerly.
Outside, it is Saturday morning.
In this sitting room, my father is dying.
There must be no intrusion, no interface
between the two worlds – or so I think.
But: “Go on!”  The voice entreats.
He needs more light.  More of the life
that bustles outside.

I pull the curtains wider.  “Go on!”
Wider still.  I think: How unlike we are.
How my life has been filtered
through closed curtains.  How he has
always wanted more light, more life,
for me.

“That’s it”.  The voice now a whisper.
His exhausted eyes close.
How poor a son I have been.
How it is too late for me to change
for him.

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