seems everywhere these days.
I had such a strange dream last night
(just this last night).
It’s still part of me,
fresher than yesterday’s snow.
I was at home
and my Dad was there,
he was really here
and I even felt the old familiar
We were driving to a supermarket
and he told me to go in
to get that bread.
Your mother said you’d know the one.
I was searching the shelves
when a dark second later,
I was on the train with a friend,
we passed bridges at Ringsend—
I could see them through the window,
past her head.
I kept repeating,
It would be easier if he were dead
because I do remember the removal,
the cremation, but oh…
we haven’t scattered his ashes yet.
She looked me in the eye
and said, that’s it—that’s what it is.
You can’t let go till it’s done.
Last week I read
The Tao of Muhammad Ali
in one go, trying to devour it
to fill the void and then,
on a long, long walk
in this strange place
I saw Dad walking in the field
walking alongside me a good deal away.
I remembered that
when I was nine
he sent me to school with a story to tell
how before the Liston fight,
Ali declared that,
The sun ain’t gonna shine no more.
No one laughed
but I bore their ignorance proudly
as only a nine year old can
and though later Dad said—
You rejected everything I loved,
It was not true.
I’ve been trying to put it all together—
Dad, Ali, the sudden death
of a neighbour, his seventeen-year-old son
who is left,
the robin I saw that morning
before we got the word,
against the grey January fields,
and then later,
finding it by the gatepost
and not wanting to look
and see the damage
the car had done because
it was still a small handful,
and in all this, all that rings true,
all I have to hold to
is the full moon I saw the other night
and that line of Tess Gallagher’s
on Carver’s last night:
The moon shone like
the last beat of a mad man’s heart.
Maybe I’ll stick with the story
of the neighbour—
it seems more manageable
than my own
my landlady asks if
I want his old armchair—
I’d need to see it first,
but she hesitates,
not wanting me (or anyone)
to see the state they’d lived in,
or more, that his son might know
She’s kept a fire lit
in case he comes back
from his aunt’s and on an impulse says,
Come on and no one’ll see.
We go in.
She leads me into the grey cottage
and the cloying smell of damp
In the bedroom,
by the double bed they shared
the wallpaper is dark and peeling.
They never lit the fire,
she says, made do with the electric.
She’s packed the dead man’s clothes
in black plastic bags,
and plans to paint
so when the son comes back
it’ll be a different place,
to that which he shared with his father
for eight years.
I look at the chair
through the bedroom door, decide not to take it.
As I leave something catches my eye,
the wall is papered with clippings—
Evander Holyfield in victory,
The young lad boxes.
He’d come home and wake his Dad
if he won.
When he’d lose the man would say,
Sure, even Cassius Clay lost sometimes.