THE MAN WHO WALKED AWAY FROM HIMSELF
One day, I am not sure when, my father walked away from himself
Not far at first.
He would step to one side and admire his handiwork in making a perfect omelette for my mother with toast soldiers lightly buttered, bland and pale and diabetes friendly.
Gradually over time his wanderings would become braver.
He would seem to pause outside Morrison’s as still as an encountered fox right before the spring behind the car and the vanishing.
His essential self projected some yards away examining the floral display beside the car park, withering for want of water.
Once he got good at it, he could be away for hours at a time.
Sat watching the golf on TV, tutting at the flights of fancy employed by Peter Alliss to describe a simple putt.
Used to the silence by now my mother was completely unaware that he was sat in Acomb Park by the bowling green admiring the well-turned calf of a woman throwing out the jack.
Still utterly in love with ma I must believe but I suspect he always had a certain reverence for beauty in all the people it resides in, and all the forms it takes.
The day that he stood on the doorstep unable to recognise my brother he was down the Conservative Club laying a fiendish snooker for his long dead brother Ray, looking on, touching his cue to his brow in mute appreciation
When I last saw him alive he was lost beyond Erewhon.
Writing his own story.
The doctors sent up a chemical smoke signal to show him the way home
And I swear I could hear footsteps in the distance getting louder till his cat green eyes flashed lucid in the bare white room
where the trees rapped the windows when the wind blew.
“You’re back then” I said
“It seems so” he replied
And all at once he was away on his toes again.
Light on his feet as ever down the corridor, the steps getting fainter, and fainter still.
A door swung open and then shut.
Then silence, save the tapping of the trees on the glass by his side, and the sound of the monitors.
Soft traffic sounds in dust and water
Hanging where the city runs away
With the dreams its people once had
That flow like cut wrists in the bath
But it doesn’t have to be like that
When the bypass sings to us
Lost loving lucid and forbidden
We throw the sticks and make the beat
The sand falls like cars on the shum
Metronoming in the far places ending
Where the mind stops for a burger
Fried in three o’ clock special sauce
We get the spice buzz on ticking seeds
Of doubt coated in hot hope on hard shoulders
We can hear them going places, out there
Till we begin to dream in motion
They fade, and we are driving easy
Riding, white lining in the half place
Where the road runs out and remembers
What was there long before the metal
We are earth before the buttered black
Melting like clocks set for seven am
Where did we fall asleep at the wheel?
It is the place we cannot find again.
Author: Barry Fentiman Hall
The GistBarry Fentiman Hall is a Kent based poet and short story writer. He edits Confluence Magazine and hosts Roundabout Nights, Medway's oldest regular poetry event. His most recent collection was England My Dandelion Heart (Wordsmithery 2018)."]