he knew all along

I promise
I’m being honest
when I say it threw me
as a cold wind suddenly blew right through me
the night Dad came back

I mean
he seemed
a bit quieter
like a ghostly proprietor
drifting in the shop to offer help
reaching stuff from the tallest shelf

I can tell
you’re not well, Jim
he said, as I watched him
drift through the bedroom door
a femur’s length above the floor

that’s rich
coming from the undead
I said
have you looked in the mirror lately?

he sighed
did an eerie, weary, dead dad kinda glide
over to the bottom of my bed
sat down (sort of) and shook his head

tell me if I’m out on a limb
but drop the pretence and be honest, Jim
I can tell when something’s not quite right
call it the gift of eternal sight

well okay dad, it’s true
I was never any good at lying to you
like that time when
I was nine or ten
and I snuck out
to edge the lawn
like I’d watched you do since I was born
in my defence
it was meant
to be helpful
but I wasn’t successful
it was horribly stressful
the edges were crap
may as well have been hacked
by a gardening psycho with a fireman’s axe
so I put the spade back
hurried inside
and when you finally arrived
home from work
you went berserk
stormed in the front room
where my brothers and me
were watching TV
and you yelled who made that god awful mess
and I kept my head down and I didn’t confess

well – newsflash son
I actually knew it was you all along
you always were a headstrong kid
it was exactly the sort of thing you did
your feckless brothers never touched a spade
so it was pretty obvious it was you I’m afraid
but that’s not why I’ve come back from the grave
he said as he gave
a flickering kinda glower
(understandable, given the hour)

tell me why you feel so lost?
I needs must know at any cost

(weird his speech turned so archaic;
but I suppose when you’re dead you’re beyond prosaic)

I don’t know, Dad
it’s sometimes really bad
and I wonder if maybe I was born
with an invisible caul that never got torn
doomed to live in a membranous fug
something like that, I said, and shrugged

Jim! Is that an extended metaphor?
if it is I have to give you credit for
being so cute & melodramatic
but as life skills go it’s problematic
you always did like to dress yourself
in words that dented your mental health

so what the hell do I do I said
throwing myself helplessly back on the bed

he drifted round the room a while
then settled back down with a weary smile
folding his bony hands in his lap
tossing back the hood on his demonic wrap

I’m sorry we never seriously chatted
before my atoms got royally scattered
all I can say in my defence
is MY dad was bad in every sense
stayed out drunk most of the night
coming back angry and up for a fight
and I know grandad was just as shite
so it got passed down as a kinda blight
no excuse but maybe explains
the dodgy links in the family chain
but it doesn’t have to be your inheritance
you have the tools and the competence
to forge yourself a better life
and that’s my message here tonight

he spoke like a spectral jiminy cricket
all he needed was a brolly and a ticket
to the transformation of the long-nosed puppet
to a real-life dancing boy or summat

(quite how many metaphors can you stick
in a poem – apparently five or six)

the universe is basically huge
cold as a wet weekend in Bruges
so it’s up to you to bring some heat
and find the love in those Belgian streets
I’ve lost where I’m going with that one, okay?
but I think you know what I’m trying to say
embrace your darkness! feel the burn!
find out what there is to learn
from the pain you sometimes feel in your heart
and greet each dawn as another fresh start

there’s nothing more fucked up than families
he sighed, patting my head with his white phalanges

then suddenly he straightened and flapped his cape
his sockets flamed and his jawbone gaped
‘I’m sorry to say, Jim, that’s really that
I’ve really enjoyed our spectral chat
but I’m off to explore Messier 83
a distant spiral galaxy
sounds nice in the brochure, but hey – we’ll see…’

with that he shot straight up through the ceiling
and left me with an awkward feeling
Dad never read a book, so honestly?
how did he come to learn astronomy?

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