This huge man in glasses with cigar
standing in profile - gross, shirt collar gone,
wearing a waistcoat: my father
seventy years ago, age forty-one,
dying within the year. In the crook
of his arm a small child, ancient
four-year-old, watchfully alone,
taciturn, staring with ungiving eye
at the camera: me, fixing memory
with a look whose meaning shapes my life.
What is it we share, this Great War survivor
and his son, guarding the deck-chaired beach
at Bognor Regis or Weston-super-Mare
in the late sepia Summer of 'thirty-two?
We are unalike and yet are one.
He holds me comfortably as of right
like a king his sceptred orb. I am secure,
the emblem of his realm, balanced,
austere, menacing, a golden
power-sealed weapon before the world.
It will pass, this moment of supreme confidence
when we stand at the edge of the sea
and hold back the waves. He will shortly
put me down, and turn, and puff on his cigar,
acknowledge in silence the clouding sun,
the flies, the sweat around his chin.
And I can still remember his rich aromatic smell,
his waistcoat feel, that long instant when,
supreme and solemn, he stood there gazing
along the shrinking sands, thinking he had won.
© 2007 Brian Hughes