My father leaving
I have found a form for my grief in the memory of a young deer
I glimpsed by the side of the road half destroyed half poised
to make a leap.
The snow held in place its shock
at being collapsed back into the earth while yet to know
what it was here for or what needed to be done.
Did you think the earth had taken hold
the day you pulled off the road and walked away from your wife
and four children as if we stopped your breath?
All we could do was line up to watch you disappear.
Do I have to stand there forever while my body gives way
as it did in the years in which you could not stop leaving?
Will you stop leaving now?
Deep in the dark of that year
I issued a warning. I’m going to break, I said
but quietly and so often that it sounded like a refrain.
People nodded and moved on. What else could they do?
Hold me? Through each and every day?
They had their own days.
One night something paused in the empty street
and tipped me sideways before moving on
and I discovered the pain I’d been trying to speak of.
I was two things now – the shocked engine
and this broken part which I carried the last mile home
as if it were something I could then set down.
I met every kindness that followed with astonishment.
Even when they held up pictures and said
You have every reason to be in such pain.
They had looked inside me and found reasons.
To my mind, these people were gods.
I told my beloved I’d look after myself
but he kept approaching with care and patience
while I issued warnings as a form of encouragement.
There was an instant simplification of our long romance
as we spoke only of pillows, medication, tea and bread.
For months I woke beside my pain
and waited for it to knit itself to me – to become something
I carried without feeling, something incorporated
to the extent that it is not known.
Why, when I had the chance, did I not just set it down?
In what way does it complete me?
Send Letters To:
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN
Please include name, address, and a telephone number.