3 poems about loss

1. (The Geography of Embers)

You stare into the coals, through the vast

infinite glowing peaks and valleys, roads

And caves

Like the Taliban’s last refuge.

There are places in there where memory lives

A moment in time

For tomorrow they will become ash


The memories like caked mud now

Crumbling, bearing an imprint

The hand that formed the clay

Still warm in memory’s place

But cold and lifeless on the hospital bed


I will it to move; it’s playing a game

Like a father with his five year old son.

He’s only sleeping, dreaming

And I am awake within a dream.


You stare into the embers, the glowing light

Of a distant adventure

Future possibility, fond remembrance

A warm and comforting invitation

To the special place in your life

The soft heat, the gentle womb-soft pulse

The quiet fingers of a giant hand

As you clasp your baby fingers

A smile in his eyes

A kiss from his lips

The warm flow of his love, pouring


And an ember mountain falls

A valley collapses

And fire becomes ash becomes dust

And memory, like drying clay

On a wall in a past and loved place




I dreamt before I woke

I was walking along the South bank and I saw him

who I thought was him

a man who completely resembled

my Dad, aged about forty

he even wore a jacket of that era.

He was handsome, strong

going someplace

had a family, perhaps.

I followed him at the best angle

that caught his features in that right way.

My eyes didn’t want to let him go as he darted through the crowd.

I wanted to hear his voice

perhaps we were related?

I went up behind him and asked

You wouldn’t by any chance be a Thompson?

he was on his way somewhere

wasn’t really listening

kind of like Dad, really

No, he muttered in a different voice

And my heavy breaths

burdened with sleep/dream sobs

pulled me back through the crowd

back to the morning and the crumpled sheets

and he was gone a second time



When Uncle Jim walked in to his daughter’s engagement party

I saw Dad.

Jim has the same strong builder’s hands

the same features, shape, hair, sense of humour

as his brother, my father, had.

Would Jim have understood if I had gone up and held his hand

just to feel its shape and its strength?

Or to hug him and feel his breathing warm chest and his strong arms rubbing my back?

I couldn’t take my eyes off him

as I missed my father

because I saw him

Dad was right there in the room, in Jim’s blood

and yet I couldn’t speak to him

And Jim, with his fears and his isolation

would have drifted away like an island

cut from the continent of family by some seismic shift

that occurred twenty years ago

its tremble remembered

with the look and need of a grieving child

a mirror

a mirror

October 5, 2006

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