The Wake

There was a blowing out
Of puffed cheeks,
A wringing of hands;
A contest to see which relatives
Could stay longest standing up
Without talking.
A fiddling of rings
And necklaces clasped,
A bland conglomerate
Of traditional foods protected
By cellophane: quiche
And salads, potatoes
And parts of beasts
Which were sentient
In feathers and fleece.
An unspooling new world,
I watched the future flag unfurl
Its warning as you leaned
From your designated seat
And said without speaking
It could be worse, son;
Perhaps, Dad, somewhere in a
Different inverse universe
Where time flows backwards.

I laughed out loud
And relatives noticed
Momentarily. I turned to you
Where you were not,
Sitting on your vodka rocks;
Some words sank and some words
Stuck with a malodorous waft
I attributed to a corner
Of unwashed carpet
Where the church cat
Unashamedly squatted
And relieved its feline
Bladder. I enquired
After your diverticulitis
And you said there are no
Stomas or indeed consultants
In the paradigm you found
Yourself in, nor catheters,
And that, hey, you could
Drive me home, and how strange
And perverse I thought
That we use words to hide
And divert meanings and truth
As if truth should be
Obfuscated with moss
When grieving families say
‘He was under the influence’
Or ‘they were disappeared
In the Troubles’.
What do you know?, you said,
And back to the subject at
Hand, with this predeliction
I could drive you home
Six or seven months later
And I lose control, the trunk
In a tree, steam rising as
Documented in tv programmes
And films. That would be worse.
You nodded; I looked at you
In utter disbelief, and
Surmised that the gap is great
Between sotted and besotting.
Before you evaporated I said
Knowing you my father,
I’d never get into that car.
The relatives left silently,
Taking home their flowers and
A brace of pleasantries.

Everything good you have, embrace,
Instead of what you’ve lost;
For when embracing emptiness
We fall with greater cost.

2 thoughts on “The Wake

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