On Father’s Day

Francis Gabriel Byrne 1925 – 1983

I wrote this poem after my father died. It was read at his funeral.

Could I see you again
As I did then
It would be home from work,
Your bike leaned to the house,
Yellow mac dripping.
Fumble of bicycle clips
Then the smell of boot polish
Black as the night beyond the kitchen door
As you stooped to the step,
Rubbed shoes to a shine
I laughed into.

Fragments of memory,
A clear happiness
Before the arrogance of testing youth
Set us at odds
And we could not speak
But the stings of discord needled in.
Then I grew
And could see you whole
And love you.

You were a teacher,
In fact, and in the heart.
As son, husband, father
You taught us how to live,
And now, how to die.

Death came as a mercy
And to us this grace:
That in our memories
You shall live whole,
As when, a little child,
After the swings,
My cotton frock damp from the paddling pool
And tucked about my knees,
You carried me home.
Oh, so high up!

At home in Dagenham 1949

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