Here is the 47th poem in my 52-poem sequence (one a week) for 2013, followed by some illumination and reflection:
THE UNFINISHED GAME
Somewhere in my mind
there is a pool table and two cues
abandoned, the black never potted
the game that my wife’s father and I never finished.
It was a holiday chalet, the end of a perfect week
in which he’d pretended he couldn’t play
so the kids could. So like him
the old bugger was damn good at it
and I still regret the hurried exit.
He thought I was weak at first
not good enough for his daughter
but somewhere along the line in fifteen years
I must have lost the convincing appearance of a fool.
Other family’s grief is just distant enough
To be bearable, intelligible.
I watched his daughter and son and grandchildren
looking for the trees today that commemorate him
and his father, Skye McDonalds
growing symbolically on their own soil.
I kept my dark glasses on, said nothing
offered no profound platitudes. All would grate
to the ears of those who refuse themselves
all but the cold facts of science
as did the man himself at the end.
But it seems like just another religion to me
this closely observed atheism
refusal to admit what you feel
what every child and animal knows in their veins.
This summer air, sap rising in the veins
the whole world aquiver in the shimmering heat.
They say to each other he’s not there
and how they miss him.
And yet if they would only let life speak
what it whispers plainly on the wind to me
they’d see how he lives and moves in them
their every gesture and feature a keepsake
a monument and more: old blood
flowing through the new, a tree replenishing itself
silently, unbidden, the true gift left even
to those who do not dare to ask it.
Immortality is here for us each morning
left out on our doorstep, hidden in plain sight
and yet like fools we stumble over it
mistake its miracle, ask for more.
I have no need for heaven therefore
to hell with that last game
it never stopped but paused, remains
necessarily unfinished, a work in progress
and each other’s respect is all there ever was to win.
Well, we’ve almost reached the present day now in the 52-poem sequence of my life, as the year nears its close. It was writing this poem that made me realise with a jolt that I hadn’t yet written one about my own father. That I then did, but you’ll have to wait until Poem 52 itself in December before I post that one. For some reason this poem makes me think of the paintings of the American artist Andrew Wyeth, and his visual meditations on death and rebirth. Above and below are three fine examples. His most famous picture of course is Christina’s World, as featured recently towards the end of that odd but not quite entirely rubbish Hollywood Sci-Fi-buster “Oblivion”.