Poem — Vincent O’Sullivan

The Grieving Process

My dad you could say was an illicit substance
in the body politic of family life.

He was flashier, my dad, than spastic traffic
lights, and that was on a quiet day.

The opening night of Milton’s big yarn
on an ice-rink laced with lasers

doesn’t describe dad either, but it’ll do
for the kind of woman who blew his mind.

When I was a child I thought bosom
and zeppelin must both belong to the Germans,

because mum said God’s vengeance
rode high against both, and I knew

from seeing the old man at an office party
that Miss Zelda’s zeppelins must be

an international threat, never mind the Home
Guard. Dad survives on a high wire

in my mind, spangles and distance and by
Christ, what a fall’s coming!

When it came he was like a carpet
you might as well say that looked

like dad spread out, only thinner than a pikelet —
Oldies’ home, tremors, church mice

had numbered accounts if comparisons
mean much. But a bugger and a half

right to the door where the coffin’s varnish
crackled. The one bit of his will

he bothered to finish was a woman undertaker
had to lay him out. Must be over forty.

He wasn’t responsible, if not.
He’s a dirty old myth, our dad,

but a source of consolation to me, for one,
who switches off the cricket the moment

I’m instructed, before I make the tea.
He’s a big sunset still fading the curtains.

And my sister, who’s married well,
says does she watch her Eric, thanks to dad.

 

Vincent O’Sullivan

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