I read him letters discovered in a wardrobe.
Caress a dromedary of blue neck bones.
Old memories erupt, like unruly rhododendrons.

My feet step gingerly around incessant TV noise.
He turns the volume louder, until it drowns out fear.
Each swallow takes three minutes to go down. Let’s talk

about something else. Outside, the sky’s a heated
dome. He’s asking me to pray for rain,
for my non-believing children. He says

my mother’s still as present as the light flickering
across the water. Dragonflies spike the surface,
spooking other insects. He watches from her bed,

which he refuses to abandon, although it’s old
and saggy. Our family converges, as untuned
as his piano, long past early joys.

A raven and a crow settle on each shoulder.
He tells me faith is so much more beautiful
than a body breaking down, all the way to bone

and organ. Flings the sheet aside. I flap my hand
until he’s covered. The children laugh,
call him a nudist. Through the French doors,

he observes the coming purple, their swallow dives.
Clouds spill for seven minutes, lash the swimming pool.
When electricity returns, I make a pot of tea.

Still, we’re skirting. On the TV: I’ll get back to you.
An old soldier’s final order: I’d like an ABF.
The children go out, get Absolut.


Note: In our family an ABF is an ‘absolutely bloody final’ drink which visitors are required to declare before my father will let them leave the house. Absolut is the name of his favourite vodka.