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Poems from All Kinds of Disorder


My father tried to make
Sunday afternoons take shape.
He built theatres out of cardboard boxes
Fixed with fairy lights and left me
To script plays with my swappets
While he scrubbed the oven
Or got on with the gardening.

He spent one winter's weekends
Building a papier-mache landscape
In the garden shed; when Christmas came
He set me up on a stool
In the middle, with a transformer,
And three new Hornby trains
To run on the circular tracks

We went fishing in the Arun
When the sun came out; I crouched
On the bank, threading lead,
While he put up his chair
By the car and practised speeches
On the redistribution of Health Service funds,
And waved when I caught something.

We fell out when I was fifteen.
I got home late, stoned;
He screamed at me in his pajamas:
Don't just stand there like some demented Jesus,
Say something. Next morning, when he came
To my bedroom to kiss me, I rolled away.
I heard him going downstairs
Honking and whistling as he wept.

We don't see much of him.
But I think about his funeral.
It should take place in miniature,
With a matchstick coffin, and posed figures
On a plaster graveyard, water-coloured green.
I want to watch him watching
As they lower his body down.

And when he's gone into the earth,
Let him turn and catch my eye,
They way he did one night
When we both laughed at
Tommy Cooper playing Hamlet
On a tilting ship, and for a moment
Recognised each other, in an open space
Together, like some other father and son.