POEM: My Father Loved Cars

BY PAM NEWHAM

My father died and I am buying lettuces and spring onions
for the after-funeral lunch.
I am worried there won’t be enough glasses and chairs.
I am afraid my mother, who keeps saying, “I was supposed to go first.”
(as if they had a pact) will find it too much.

My father died and before the service my mother can’t remember
whether she took the Valium the doctor prescribed
so she takes another one just in case.
The minister reads Psalm 23 and too late I realise
he’s chosen a modern version.
“He leads me beside peaceful streams” while I long
for “still waters”.

My father died and I am saying, “Have you got a drink? So good of you
to fly up just for the day. No, I didn’t bake it myself. Yes, he did have a
wonderful sense of humour. Oh, please don’t cry.”
I see my mother across the room. She is having a lovely time
after a couple of Valiums and a glass of wine.

My father died and the day after the funeral I will reverse my car
into a wall and the day after that (while mine’s at the panel beater)
I will borrow my husband’s car and scrape it against a pillar
in the parking garage.
I will not get out of the car to look at the damage.
I will sit and think of how much my father loved cars.
How, even if this had been his car, he would have simply raised his eyebrows.
How he might have said something like, “Of course, you’re a good driver.
You’re just not a very good parker.”
And then I will rest my head on the steering wheel.
And then I will begin to grieve for my father who is dead.

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