Wood Smoke


They are burning bodies down below
but on this hill at chimney height
no other smell than wood smoke swirls,
and shadows curl and crinkle in my mind
where he has smouldered all these years:
so I am here, silent watcher poised
to gatecrash my own father’s funeral
despite deciding that I would not come,
hoping somehow that forty years’ emptiness
could be concluded in this sad-stained place.

My brother forgave him, took him in
for the last few years before he died
whilst I hung on to all the bitterness,
and as I watched them gather by the chapel
the anger started crackling inside.
I was a baby when he turned his back,
when his mother took back the furniture she gave,
when his family, our grandparents, uncles and cousins
all around in a small town, switched us off.

Their eyes were on me as I sauntered down,
a family face they did not recognise,
an interloper from a different time
intruding on their stolen grief,
bastard from a stifled age
cast out whilst they
crept to his knee and stole
the years that should have been for us.

For them a time to say goodbye
that I unknowing tried to do
forty five years ago and now conclude
as velvet curtains
cloak the past again.


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