My father believed
Like his father before him
Hard work was its own reward:
Nothing worth doing came easy;
Nine counted less than the one you lost
And the clear, bright notes of your own trumpet
Were a form of noise pollution.
Of all the fears that flourished in that dusty soil
The deepest stares back from the mirror still;
But with your native music, romantic whimsy
And cheerful shrug at all tomorrows
You break the power of my ancient dread
And step into the world with easy, springing stride
Leaving behind the tattered banners
Of my own quiet rebellion.
For my daughter, who is all my greatest hopes and fondest dreams made real. I couldn’t be more proud of her. N.
And with that
The bedroom door is closed
But now just to contain
That lies upon the place long after
The last trace of perfume fades.
To hear her desk-chair creak
Her cell-phone buzz
A sudden burst of song
As though a window cracked in heaven.
Knowing doesn’t stop me wishing.
Not that I
Would have it any other way:
She’s in her moment
A new star in ascendency;
The leaves fall, the swifts fly south
And so the great wheel turns.
And with that
Our daughter has returned to university today after her long weekend at home. The house suddenly seems very quiet, and we miss her terribly, but she’s in absolutely the right place, doing absolutely the right thing, which makes letting her go a lot easier. All is well. (She’s studying French, hence the title!) N.
A perfect poem
For precisely this moment:
One that captures in a few short lines
The exact feeling
Of sitting up in bed
As night draws in
When long hours of rain have ceased
The fire has burned low
The ale-mug is empty
And a newly-returned beloved child
Sleeps softly in the next-door room.
What a poem
That would be;
And how blessed the man
Who gets to write it.
This weekend, we’ve been treated to a visit from our daughter, who’s halfway through her first term at university. The iPhone and FaceTime mean she’s much less ‘gone’ than we were when we made the same leap 30 years ago, but they’re no substitute for the real girl. How utterly wonderful she is. N.
In every note,
Bow arm strong and supple;
Eyes closed, lost in concentration,
You own this space, command our attention;
The music and moment are yours.
Wild applause. My heart swells.
This is my first crack at rictameter, which I’d never heard of until today. Nine lines; start with two syllables, then four, then six, eight and finally 10, before counting down again to the same two syllables you first thought of. My subject, once again, is my wonderful daughter, who played a magical violin solo at her school concert last night. N.
We’re painting her bedroom. The little-girl pink
That she’s had on her walls ever since she was six
Has to go, we’ve been told. But it seems they don’t mix
Shades that truly reflect how fourteen-year-olds think.
There’s an ocean of blues and a wide yawn of beige:
Peach, magnolia, lavender, calicos, creams.
Way too placid and pale for her dramas and dreams;
Far too subtle and soft for this high-contrast age.
We need tones more in tune with our turbulent teen:
Let’s have Coffee Stain skirtings, the door Dark Despair;
An Apple White ceiling, one wall Gothic Nightmare,
All the others a deep shade of Whatever Green.
Slap on Intense Emotions with Angst as a base:
A tin of Wild Hormones stirred up with a stick;
Then a bucket of Drama Queen – lay it on thick –
And to finish, a top coat of Personal Space.
But she blazes with colours that they’ll never sell:
The glow of her temper, the gleam in her eye.
She’s our gold, our red sunset, the blue in our sky.
In her rainbow’s a covenant. And all will be well.
The swifts do not debate: they will depart,
Though summer still lies soft on England’s fields,
For stormy seas and distant shores. Its heart,
Touched by September frosts, the great oak yields
Its crown and glory to decay; the rose
Gives up its scent, lets its bright colours run
Without regret, and vast, all-conquering snows
Surrender meekly to the reborn sun.
So who am I to wish to stop the wheel
And hold her always in this time, this age?
I must seek out that secret strand of steel
Within, accept this turning of the page.
This is her time to run, to fly, to grow;
And mine to learn to live with letting go.
This sunny Sunday lane
Is our own private
Complete with mimicked Phil-and-Paul
To lend us greater speed:
In the Best Young Rider competition
Makes the move
On the inside –
The gap’s opening up –
And the champion
Must respond to this:
He’s digging deep
Let’s not forget
He’s the oldest man
In the race,
So you’ve got to ask;
Has he got the legs
To counter the attack
And close it down
Or are we about to see
A new era ushered in?”
If I chose
I could go
Straight over the top of her;
But, smiling, I permit
Her cheeky breakaway to succeed
And sit on her wheel;
Training for the big attacks
And moves I cannot answer
In the stages still to come,
Knowing that one day I’ll have to watch her
Head up the road alone.
Written after yesterday’s ride with my 10-year-old daughter, who seems to have inherited my competitive streak on the bike…my fault for encouraging her to watch Le Tour, I guess. For those who haven’t been glued to ITV4 or SKY for the past three weeks, ‘Phil-and-Paul’ are the dynamic commentary duo of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, who have been the ‘voices’ of cycling to British fans for over 30 years.
Playing for time
Thrown together for a weary Sunday
We dug out flute and fiddle,
Coaxed the stand from its collapsed-umbrella tangle
And played dance music
Nine times older than her ten
And my forty-something years combined.
Splitting first and second parts unselfishly,
Spinning the simple, timeless tunes
From breath and horsehair,
Varnished wood and tarnished silver,
Our thoughts as closely mingled
As our blood.
All too soon
To be in the same room
As me may be
More than she can bear.
But in all the discord
Of our crescendos, fortissimos
And silences where no one’s sure
If they should clap
Or dare to cough
The neutral notes and impartial time
Will be our arbiters;
A shared and secret language for us, free
Of should and shan’t and
A separate space outside of life
Where all is sweet,
And we can stay in tune.
She’ll be home:
An hour remains
Of this week in my own skin
Before I assume the shape and antics
Of Daddy once again.
I should spend
These sixty stolen minutes
Savouring the peace
The lightness of heart and head
Freed from questions
Relieved of needs –
Live a little longer
At a grown-up pace.
But I’m waiting.
Quiet has become
Liberty, the lack of her.
And for all I wish her
To go free
And seize her world
Mine is flat
When she’s not in it
To give it roundness