Apples don’t fall far from trees

For Dad

Those seasoned words have followed me
at least for twenty years or so,
and through that time I’ve tried to write
some thing you’d like, accept or take
on board not as a challenge but
as proof you’d done a good job, Dad.

I guess our split was at sixteen
when we both knew my hungry mind
would not make do with humdrum life,
that it would ask for proof and more.
But what we share is clear to see,
our pain not working for ourselves,
our joy in simple country things,
the way we smoke, our love of wood.

And love comes into this for years
ago you said you’d like to glimpse
the Taj Mahal before you died,
with Mom, of course, your only friend;
but never having the wherewithal,
the dosh, the chance, the heart perhaps,
you never made that trip out East
and wander now in darkened fields.

So here I am, your seedling love,
at Taj Mahal myself to find
out something of what love can do
when faced with loss, when faced with death.
I stroll about this marble cool
and ponder family, sex and trees
on which to hang a fruit or fall
backwards or forwards into dreams.

The bulbul on the branch I saw
is just another nightingale
and sings as sweet to one and all,
how often can we hear its notes?
Which brings me back to earth and graves,
sad songs on the demise of queens.

The words were always difficult
and Emperor Shah Jehan himself
took twenty years or so to press
‘this teardrop on the cheek of time’,
Tagore’s phrase; I’m still at a loss.
Suffice to say I wish we’d talked
back then instead of drifting far;
you to your older age and dark
and me, for love, to far-off lands.

 

Agra 2001

From Some Fine Old Ways To Save your Life

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