Watching Dad

by John J. Williamson
PenShells
Honorable Mention, May 2016
Judged by Joan Colby


I

A legacy of laughter, mother said.
He’s drowsy now, and Uncle Jimmy’s there,
to keep a brother’s vigil by the bed.

The doctor’s been again, so have a care;
he might not say much yet, but he will know
you’re in the room. He’s utterly aware.

I sifted through a thousand mellow notes
of melancholy, as my father stirred
to the sound of my subdued voice and spoke,

That you, my bonny lad; your face is rather blurred?
I’m loaded up with drugs; the Lakes road quiet, son?
I’m very pleased you’ve come.

II

A pyjama shirt conceals his beggared cage;
the idle watch strap cradles its dial

on the bedside table. Mantles of cloth,
creased and limp, hang loosely

from shoulder heights and fall
over the meagre girdle

of hip wings. It plays host in a lost
paradise, creeps like molten sills and dykes

to form intrusions of pitiless cells. Kingdom
usurper, builder of basalt thrones, ignores
the pleas of neighbours and messengers.

III

Plasma systems, thirsty and weak,
labour under the clef of Morpheus.

A faint riff of mucus persists
and as his organs chant their final canticle,

blood thickens, arterial flows mutate
into inertia’s anaerobic ointment,

where they beat a march to Hypoxia’s Wurlitzer,
leaving clusters to drop their pincers and wither.


Excellent imagery reveals the difficult narrative of the process of loss. A classic rhyme scheme comprises Section I while Sections II and III bury rhyme within stark observatories. --Joan Colby

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