Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Old Man, Outside In

The Leonard Maguire 'Great Lives' programme aired on BBC Radio 4 yesterday. It's now listenable-again, here - and if you do listen to it, and enjoy it, you might like to read the text of the poem written and read by actor John Bett

My own - so far, my only - poem about my father is 'Old Man, Outside In'; both the poem and the title came from - well, experience, memory, of course, but also from looking through a bundle of photographs from his childhood, and being struck by his expressions.

One shows him in a white linen sailor suit, probably in Belgium, aged about 2; another in his first school uniform, blazer & short trousers, neatly brushed blonde hair, aged perhaps 5.  I can't lay my hands on them just now, but in any case I don't think I'd post them here. I feel protective of that child's privacy. His gaze was, even then, both curious, looking out, and guarded, aware of the world looking back at him.

So this poem was/is, I think, an investigation through the lens of time; looking at the older man, who knew his time was limited, and underneath that - the palimpsest - to the younger versions, all the way back to the boy who didn't know what his life was going to be...but who never stopped being curious.

 Mais, ca s'explique!

Erratum: the date at the top is an error (mine, worsening eyesight) - d. 1997 not '77.

'Old Man, Outside In' is from my collection 'How To Hug', published by Mariscat, 2009.

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