The Provider

When I was a child my father was a moth;
my mother would take the Sunday stew
off the gas and hide it in a cupboard
in case he ate it in passing spoonfuls;
Saturday nights he fluttered in and out
of the street lamp’s light.
We waited for our pickled onions
and half-crowns.

When I was a child my father was a man.
My mother made sandwiches and flasked-tea,
she lied about fillings,
said cheese-n-pickle was steak.
He laughed and bought her gin
so she could fall over the garden fence.
We strained at velvet collars,
sunbathed in vest-n-knickers.

When I was a child my father was a rogue;
my mother poured his whisky down the sink
screamed at his friends
their mouths full of excuses.
He’d grind his hedgehog face into ours,
laugh till we cried, then
crunch his teeth asleep in the chair.
Once, he peed in the corner.

When I was a child my father was a boy.
My mother smoothed his lapels
with water-wrinkled fingers.
She shoved him out into the world
from a coal fire and hot porridge.
We were threatened with skelps and
Wait tae yer faither comes hame.
We’d wait, and wait, till bedtime.

…..

Published in Newcastle Journal 1994

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