I grieve for you in the cold quiet of winter
My absent child, my long lost son
Warming my hands over dying flames, frost covered smouldering clinker,
By the wood where icy streams run
Through the shrunken sedge, and barren fields
Stretching for miles, empty of meaning.
The landscape like a worn photograph yields
Your tremulous smile, then nothing.
Here, you ran with startled steps
Through the yielding sheaves, yelling with surprise,
Chasing indifferent spiders, and discomfited birds
With hatred in their pebble pool-dark eyes.
Querying awkwardly spoken words, small
Tenacious fingers that caress and clutch
Every passing object, loudly chuckling, wisely playing me for a fool
A silly father who loved too much.
On the anniversary of your leaving I required solitude
Partnered only by memory
Away from familiar crowds, the booming, barking fusillade
Of the present day commonplace urban itinerary,
Where only the crackle of snow
And the fleeting trajectory of birds
Distracts my slow
Marshalling of comforting thoughts.
The cottage where we lived haunts the shallow glade,
A shrouded ghost swaddled by the half-light,
Positioned squarely like an old man, its cladding beginning to fade,
White branches like dead-fingers that gleam in the night.
In the closet are your dust-sprinkled toys, a yellow plastic duck,
A cheap skateboard, ancient video games,
A guitar you never learnt to pluck
A chess board on which you pulverised my endgames.
In the preserved furnishings of your bedroom
Your school work gathered into stacks
Barely visible in the gloom,
Our life together in disorganised packs
Denoting year and level
Development and academic achievement,
If any, (but I mustn’t once again cavil)
Indicating, even in your earliest years, a specific bent.
Standing on the mantelpiece, propped up against the wall,
Are brightly coloured, polished pictures
Of you. Plump, blonde, agreeably small
Dancing, standing, jumping, grinning, absurdly wistful mixtures.
A bitter echo resonating from the shadows
A cold thought darkening into memory
The spectre of your voice disappearing in the meadows
Having left all of us! Having left me!