He had some crinkled newsprint

of when she broke

her leg.

The whole family

wearing serious faces

and her crutches

lent against the couch

and her leg up

for the photographer.

They were

an ensemble then

before illness

disarticulated them

before he went

off his mind

and tramped the town



A girl scrawled

on her prison cell wall.

She was seventeen;

she broke her fingernails doing it,

she smudged her big thumbs.

Time has made

her testimony

into something profound.


she forgave

her captors


she farewelled

her mother.

But she couldn’t

cast the shakiness

from her handwriting.

The decades have

tried to blear

her ragged script.

The dripping mould

to smear her poetry.

But neither

can erase

the simple message

the singular heartbreak

she etched on those walls.


I always knew

grandmother would know.

I hid it from my family

but she was a diviner,

half-witch, half-visionary.

I went to her house

to receive benediction.

I went until

she passed.

Dead, she filled

the architecture

of my dreams.

Her shrivelled head

tormented me, it

became anathema.

But she never whispered a word.


When she was with child

he was tender to her.

He fried her whole fish,

he scrubbed the corners

of the kitchen

till they glowed.


when baby came,

he sulked.

She crooned over her child

and he drank,

he hated the bawling.

He started slamming doors.

And then he hit her.

And broke her nose.


he was tender.

She winced, and

clung to baby.


Mess. Dust.

It was like that

when I cleared out

my father’s papers.

Bank statements

into antiquity,

his slim qualifications,

crumbling tenancy agreements,

the detritus of a muddled life.

But I also found

a black and white photograph

of me in his arms,

curling treasure

he had loved.


We’d just met

when you pulled

a wood splinter

from my finger.

You got so close

inspecting my hand,

turning it,

holding it.


you teased out

the splinter

between your

painted fingernails

and gave me back

my hand,

which was warm

in yours.


There is a sepia photograph

in the school yearbook.

Dated 1951.

Where you look sullen,

mildly spotty.

Your hair is parted

it is speckled with dandruff

your school uniform is starched.

You are a gangly giant

who’s already fumbled

with my mother

in a parking lot.

It is hard to see

into your head

hiding in the pixelated photograph.

But I know you.