Workman’s Picture

Simon Carnell

I’d want this piece about our father
to have something of the texture

of Schwitters’ Workman’s Picture
some glued-on gauze, a piece of copper pipe,

drips of solder, torn glass paper.
And to somehow speak of the fact

that when he ‘lost’ a leg, and then his bladder,
it occurred to him to connect

the tube from his bag
to a small tap soldered to a false leg strut,

making of himself a mended machine.
Never mind that it didn’t work out –

a project as impractical
as his unpatented, unpatentable

energy-saving boiler-part,
an idea to strike it rich,

worked at and re-worked for years.
Foundered, though, in its own failure

to connect, it comes out instead
as an object poem about bonfire nights,

our Guy an old blue boiler suit
stuffed with lagging, shod with workboots –

the image of himself that our father
committed yearly to the flames.

With the pets stowed safe indoors –
and myself, just out of the picture,

absorbed by striking Bengal matches –
their gem-like green, their red glamour.