The market not so far
even with a belly aching
it not so far. Some days
the water heavy, but that is so.
Soon I bring back cotton
from the market near Arusha
for the child my daughter
carry in her belly.
Carrying a child not so hard
as carrying the water.
Soon her waters break.
If it a girl, I teach her
how to carry, then
where to sell the water.
When I old bones
too old to carry
my daughters with strong backs
will carry to the market,
to the market near Arusha.
-poem previously published in Poetry London
On the doorstep, with
an armful of milk bottles,
rinsed clean for the morning,
I see the doctor out: Dr Dalton
who wears a suit that doesn’t fit,
the black frames of his glasses
hide his eyes, he’s not a handsome man.
I ask “ When is she going to get better? ”
He doesn’t lie and I thank him,
still holding the bottles.
As for words, he used so few
that his past was a high stone wall
leading down to the strand
and the smell of the sea
where fishermen never learned to swim.
He listened to a man from Wicklow play
runaway notes on his fiddle
in Camden Town or Kilburn
where the air was stale
in bars that were not home.
When my father’s largeness left him
he went looking for a place to die
within walking distance of the sea
and the shadow of mountains
he could put a name to.
-both poems previously published in Entering the Tapestry
At My Mother’s Funeral
I watch my father for signs, as if
checking for the rash of a disease,
but his suit is buttoned-black,
the careful knot in his tie, you could see
a face in his shoes . We drink whisky
out of glasses too good to use and eat
thin slices of ham on-the-bone in our front room
with her sister Rosie who’s the spit .
Out come the photos, the holiday at Butlins,
my mother in a halter-neck and pencil skirt
shoulders bare, hair blown back .
Then I see too much of him wanting
her to walk in and say Put the glasses away
we’re saving them for best.
-poem previously published in The Redbrick Review
Ghost In The Machine
Jack Davis in overalls, wearing a cap
after his day job as a brickie, repairs
secondhand bikes, to earn extra
to pay the mortgage on the house he painted
green, white and yellow, at the time of ads
in corner shops, ‘Rooms to let, no blacks no irish’.
In the box room of number sixteen, spare wheels
hang from six inch nails, the floor a shingle
of nuts and bolts, the smell of three-in-one oil
heavy as khaki. Hands fretted from wire wool
he polishes aluminium rims to silver, removes
links from the chain until it fits. His memory
full of the sea, fine tunes into each wave
as if it were the one that broke when he left
a country where there are no words for yes and no.
Sue-Sue Lambert shopping in Dunlaoghaire
meets one of the Davises and asks,
“ Is Jack not after coming home? ”
-poem previously published in Poetry Wales