The last time I saw my father we were smarting from a row.
A classic departure: an open return, and the long local train gathering pace;
I can flash it up now,
him standing there, the pouches of sadness in his face
and the last chance bleeding.
When I walk back from the train I am swinging a summerful of light
on a thumb that has hitched through Italy and France from a Mediterranean port.
I have lain awake all night
on the ribs of a luggage rack, smiling at the thought
of hearing his voice again.
The scene unfolds: the village pattering with talk and shopping feet,
unmindful of this Homeric return, the stride, unannounced, up the hill of my birth.
I practise my greetings on the street,
the old quarrel tucked, with others, in family earth.
But this is where the tape spools out, the door opens to black.
And when I call his name in the house, the house does not call back.
by Peter Spafford, from Quick (£7.99)
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