Lines From A Single Dad
My city fell and I must let it lie –
each building now rubble and its name, ash.
Some swarthy intruder ripped down the walls
that rose around me and my wife told me
cold my future was elsewhere, without her.
I packed what would fit within a heart’s walls,
strained all sinew to carry my father
on my shoulders, pulled my son from ruins.
Some strange gods did this – toppled my vessel
then told me to raise the anchor of home,
sail with all faith in an honest starlight.
I found first a place my father could rest.
Clear as a beacon, my son pulled us both
from those roots, drew us to an unmapped land.
Some spiced and impish tide brought us ashore
and we set our feet upon a nation
of more than two, of homes again, women.
I feel the heat of an averted gaze,
a hand close clasped, a gentle prayer uttered
kneeling at an altar of dazzling beauty.
My son will steer me from salt-water dreams.
Each storm bears a woman’s name. Each day, his.
The impact and spilled warmth of his dying
unsettled the dust. If I had eyes, what more
would I see between the moving columns?
If I had breath for words, what could I say?
I am but a straight line through the firebreak,
that boy a single unlengthened shadow
among many. It’s mere syncopation
that people tread through their days to nowhere.
If I had a heart, perhaps I would care.
Loss circles slow as the lines of desire:
I move with an insistence that would clip
the ear of men – anything in my way.
Though I am bound by the earth’s spun gravity
I do not understand it, know only
deliberate progress, my own true North;
follow nothing but that certain compass.
Eyeless and mute, I bear futile witness
to events. Like all new gods, I drink blood
when it is offered and promise no more
than the final horizon of the known world.
Zoe Mitchell lives and works on the South Coast of England. She has been published in a range poetry magazines including The Rialto and The London Magazine and was commissioned to write for Winchester Poetry Festival for the 2016 Chalk Poets Anthology. She recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester and was awarded a Distinction.