Family

Poem for my Father

The city falls

Slow dissolution of mortar, iron and stone,

Fantastic cornices fail one by one,

Silent, unnoticed, irreparable.

The child alone built this city.

A farm boy, small hands clotted with dust, eyes burning with lime

Alive to the wild geometry of the mind.

The young man filled his city with mathematics

And rich music of many tongues

The escape of ideas: structures wired and alive

Grew strong through science.

The Big Man deceived by his own fragile importance

Coat pockets heavy with flatterers, red-lipped voluptuaries

Strutting King of naiive vanity and repentance.

The boy buried beneath the suit, steel blue Jaguar, and whisky glass

His fervent promises whispered into fragrant hair and curved ear.

City crumbling, its white roads confused

The old man king of one room, one chair:

Empty prayers mouthed in confessional darkness

Father forgive me for I have sinned…

No visitors from Lodge or club, admirers gone

His carer said he was a gentleman to the end

Sins diminished by long perspective.

To the boy drowned

Now I sit alone in the garden we planted together
Where we smiled to retell stories of how we met,
Hand-fasted in times long past.
I was certain I remembered you
Rise like new life
From the fern-green stream at Llynn Gwynant
When I held your icy skin to mine
Wet hair in otter-fur points, peaty water on my lips
Ah love – the beautiful boy you were.
Blood spoke our togetherness in times long before that day
And hawk above and brown trout below sang sweet of our belonging.

And will we meet again in another life, now all is lost in this –
Our young eyes dappled anew with half-remembering?
Or is the nerve-line shattered, its white bones part of a deeper breaking?
I was certain I saw you drowning,
Bloated face sinking deep underwater.

Your thirst for delirium devoured self:
The multiplying glass poured into gaping mouth
Bottle in hand – proud staggering
The ‘last man standing’, painkillers rattling against your ribs,
All boastful strut, arrogant Welsh heart
Your young face mottled and brain shrinking
Raging gorge swallowing the sweet lake,
The trout stream and the fresh grass,
My whispered mourning and the dew
On soft powdered lichen stone

This mountain crashing downward
My body distorted to support your fall,
Complicit. Responsible. Lost.
Dwindling in the long lens of your backward gaze
I am your broken hope.
Our green love diminished
I cradle a nest of bones in the bracken.

Our brackish stream draws backwards to its source
A huge sucking in of the earth’s breath
May my ashes be cast there at Lynn Gwynant
At the dark pool where we began
My carbon to join the mud of that dark lake
Sheer and forbidding, a sober homecoming

Beyond the gaudy tourist tat, flags, bawling babes and fat families
Swapping trinkets and cream teas
Beyond the real ale and bearded walkers’ tales of great climbs
Beyond Gelert’s Grave, the Celtic Jewellery, and heart-swelling choir
A smaller tale, of love and loss
Of two lives drowned as one.