AIW – 2007

DAD, MUM & ALAN

On a Christmas morning many years ago I was born. Mum and I were in a small maternity home in Horton Kirby, West Kent. A few miles away in my grandparents’ terraced cottage on Hockenden Lane, Swanley, Dad and Alan (my parents’ lodger, turned closest friend) awaited the call. When it came via the only telephone in the terrace of cottages, they climbed onto their bikes and negotiated the lanes between Swanley and Horton Kirby. There was no snow; it wasn’t a white Christmas, but there was a hard frost and ice lay across the surfaces of the lanes. Dad skidded and fell off his bike so many times that on arrival at the nursing home, Mum’s midwife had to patch him up, much to my mother’s disgust. Alan, however, was unblemished. Calm, cautious and fastidious as ever, he’d navigated his bike along the gutters of the lanes, correcting his passage against pavement or hedge bank.

And so, as I stared blindly up towards the light, there were three faces looking down at me, not just the usual parental complement of two. And as I grew into sentience, conscious bit by bit of the world immediately around my cot, and then around the looming beds and armchairs and sofas, there were three grownups sharing my space. I had a Mum, a Dad and an Alan. This was the ordained way of things; this was normality.

Alan lived with us in our corner house in suburban Norbiton, Surrey, finally moving to his own flat in central London when I was 14. But the ties were indissoluble and he drove down every weekend, and still we spent holidays together. Many years on in retirement Alan bought a beautiful house in the South-East of France, which he shared with my parents and where they stayed for the greater part of the year.

My father died in 1998 and my mother in 2008. Alan died this April at the age of 98, still resident in his London flat, and his funeral was on May 7th. I wrote this poem while my mother was still alive and Alan and I were visiting her, each in 3-day sequences, Alan, increasingly frail, making the journey from Hyde Park Square to North Hertfordshire.

AIW – 2007

Sometimes I see us,
you and I, as two figures
in a landscape, empty

but for us, chalk-mark still,
our long shadows
in alignment at last.

You tended the edges
of my life
from the start

the good steward,
the gatekeeper. But the
hard, white lighthouse

beam of that
indivisible love shone
high above my head.

I knew only
my mother’s laugh,
her head thrown back,

my father’s tread
on the rising stairs,
and your silence.

Yet, even then,
its bending edge
cast light enough to read by.

Now my father’s dead
and my mother smiles,
lost in her sheets.

And still you radiate
(burning up hope
and your few years)

that love indivisible whose
fanatic heat binds us
here in this empty place.

About Dick Jones

I'm a post-retirement Drama teacher, currently working part-time. I have a grown-up son and daughter, three grandchildren and three young children from my second marriage. I write - principally poetry but prose too, both fitfully published. My poetry collection Ancient Lights is published by Phoenicia Publishing (www.phoeniciapublishing.com) and my translation of Blaise Cendrars' 'Trans-Siberian Prosody and Little Jeanne from France' (illustrated by my friend, the artist, writer and long-time blogger Natalie d'Arbeloff) is published by Old Stile Press (www.oldstilepress.com). I play bass guitar & bouzouki in the song-based acoustic/electric trio Moorby Jones, playing entirely original material. https://www.facebook.com/moorbyjones?ref=aymt_homepage_panel http://www.moorbyjones.net/) https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=MOORBY+JONES spotify:artist:07MDD5MK9MnRGSEZwbsas9 I have a dormant blog with posts going back to 2004 at Dick Jones' Patteran Pages - http://patteran.typepad.com - and I'm a radio ham. My callsign is G0EUV
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3 Responses to AIW – 2007

  1. Pingback: Poetry Blog Digest 2020, Week 19 – Via Negativa

  2. Irene Bailey says:

    What a blessed childhood to have with three adoring adults to feed their love and wisdom into your daily experience

    • Dick Jones says:

      Well, yes. But the truth of a childhood is always more complex than its outward face suggests. Alan’s long, slow passing brought much under scrutiny for me and if love inside that childhood was never in doubt, its disposition raises questions that, to some extent, the poem tries to address.

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