Father of the Bride

Smart and ominous in suits
the groom’s brothers, brothers-in-law
are clutching cans of lager like grenades;

his sisters, sisters-in-law
in crockery hats curl fingers round
champagne, fill the room
with lipstick, teeth;

and little lads
in dicky bows, little girls all curls
in first communion frocks have got
the piano cornered and the cat.

The Best Man hates himself,
for garbling by-heart sentiments,
tells a joke he bungles too; then
toasting ‘Bride & Groom’ robs me
of words that I have been
rehearsing for a stolid month.

The trestle table cache of cans
is rapidly rifled, passed along
the line that’s littered with
chicken legs, plastic plates,
confetti up the stairs, and kids
stickying the ivories.

In that same
(hoovered) room, with all the things
put back and everyone demobbed,
the gaudy camp dispersed, I sit, reword

the luckless speech to wish them luck:
my only daughter crisp as icing for
an afternoon, and the lad who startled
breakfast once five years ago,
and who, old-fashioned and abashed,
asked her hand of me –

given now
with the usual hesitations and a Dad’s
confession to a serious sense
of swank and loss, walking down
a gawping aisle, wearing a suit
he’ll be uncertain in again.

St Malachy’s, Toxteth

The corner into Beaufort (B’you-fit) Street,
smacked by a sailing wind and the black grief
of a funeral: hinged-open doors of limousines
unloading, coffin poised to slide, and wreaths
shivering in gruff air from off the docks. I had
to walk through it, insist, shoulder the wind,
dodge mourners and the stares of neighbours witnessing.

In St Malachy’s Juniors, kids, reckless as the wind,
were set to writing poetry beneath a chipped-
plaster, foot-high Christ, their age – imperially
crowned, pomped in fineries.

                            In the wild street,
the coffin was being shouldered, slotted into
Gothic darkness like a simple front-door key.

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