THE TELL TALE SIGN OF HIS JAW
My Dad was a very quiet man
who rarely lost his rag,
he worked in a gun-making factory,
all he asked was to smoke his fag
or to read the ‘Sports Argus’
or listen to the wireless
he didn’t ask for much in life,
just enough money to provide for us.
Each Friday evening he’d come home
and present Mom with his pay,
she’d take out what she’d need to shop
then pass pocket money his way.
My Dad was a staunch ‘Labour’ man’,
my Mom a devoted ‘Tory’,
she and her family were a united front,
I could often hear their war games
as I snuggled down in my bed at night –
secretly proud of Dad’s solo fight
as he argued what he thought was right
long, long into the night.
Though I understood nothing of their talk,
because he fought alone,
I suppose I was always on his side
and his arguments I’d condone.
We’d visit Grannies each weekend,
gathering round the gramophone,
and we’d sing the favorite songs of the day –
but Dad always seemed so alone.
From my hiding place beneath the table I saw,
(as I peeped from under the table cloth)
the tell-tale sign of Dad grinding his jaw,
something I’d seen many, many times before
and I willed him and willed him to stop!
Was he intimidated by their united front?
Why wasn’t he comfortable in their home?
Or did he feel inferior because he didn’t fight on the front-
was that why he felt so alone?
I wish I’d asked him at the time,
it’s only in hindsight we see
that our parents are just ordinary folk
with their own insecurity.
My Dad has been gone now for many a long year –
since nineteen eighty-four –
why is it only now that I question
the tell-tale sign of his jaw?
Many poems are just memories of our past – sometimes loving, often confused. Yet what they all do is to tell of the people who have shaped our life.
Today is different, I feel it!
Is it excitement, or is it fear?
I walk beside my mother’s bicycle.
She chats. I feel her apprehension.
Reaching our destination
(A red brick house, quite small)
I go inside, holding her hand tightly,
Or is she tightly holding mine,
Fearful of letting go.
I’m taken into a room. A lady smiles.
My hand is passed across to hers.
I don’t want to go, but I know that I must.
I watch as mother disappears into the distance.
Now others appear, all reluctant as I,
All passed across and confused.
We do not speak – but we know fear binds us,
We sit down, with big, round, staring eyes,
We bite our top lip to inhibit our cries.
“I will not cry. I will not look a fool!”
“Welcome,” she says, “to your first day at school!”