For my father
An owl was hooting in the tree-filled night.
By the old embers, which I could not stir
To yellow flame, I made my own small glow
Smoking a cigarette, near my father’s chair.
(He would not have approved.) The inner light
Of evening in the house makes cobwebs grey.
At other hours, though, they are not grey.
As grey as smoke, owl-feathers, in the night,
By day they slowly spin, acquiring light
And weaving incandescence; as they stir,
Say, just above my father’s reading chair,
They feed on dust-motes, effloresce and glow.
Between field-grasses’ rankness, they can glow
Another way. When dawn is clouded grey
With piled soft-sculpture shapes, a ship, a chair,
A cradle for the child who kills the night,
The baby sun emerges with a stir,
Distributing the beaded webs its light.
The white refulgence, though, the day’s strong light
That they refine and splinter in their glow,
As elemental dust-motes spin and stir,
As grey flames white, the other face of grey,
As day is just the other face of night,
Is that which shines above my father’s chair.
Death cannot be life’s other face. The chair
In which he sat to read, turned to the light
Of the wide window, blue-paned with the night
But throwing back the old red fire’s glow,
Speaks of him in its impress. Green, not grey,
The pain of losing him. He would not stir
Unless to rip up sports news, or to stir
The sleeping dog’s contentment by his chair
As the bright sun haloed to white his grey
Hair, imbuing it with filamental light
So that his unethereal head would glow
As if with benediction. Now, good night
Light-footed dog, shrill-hooting owl. Good night
My father’s chair, rich in the fading glow.
The embers stir and settle, dull to grey.
About the Contributor
Imogen Russell Williams is a former theatre director, who now works as a children’s book critic, writing for the Guardian, the Metro and the TLS, and as a freelance editor.
Sad Book - Michael Rose, illustrated by Quentin Blake
This beautiful, heart-rending book is an account of a father's grief for a child; written simply enough for young readers to decipher, it's profound, stark and humane enough to move anyone to tears. Blake's sensitive illustrations, rich in the action and emotion of the everyday, perfectly evoke the ubiquitous, metamorphic sorrow of Rosen's poetic text ("Where is sad? Sad is everywhere. It comes along and finds you.")
More from Issue Ten:
- Tracks of Life and Death by Liz Kohn
- A short course of treatment by Tim Love
- Heating disorder by Myriam Frey
- Heirlooms by Rosie Garland
- Mourning by Katherine McMahon
- The Ghost of my Mother is waiting for me in Arrivals by Claire Collison
- Pakistan Zindabad, from Abroad by Hana Riaz
- Adopt a vortex by Han Smith
- Sea Sickness by Eloise Unerman
- British Street Music by Tamim Sadikali
- Pomegranate by Caroline Gonda