Poetry

Poem by Angela Topping, from her latest collection, Letting Go (Mother’s Milk Press 2013).

Reverse Routes
The car takes us the short way
from home to church, Dad
enduring his false teeth, me
in unfamiliar clothes: white
dress and veil, clutching his arm.
He is keeping me safe.
My lips are clamped, white freesias
trembling in my hand. Minutes before
I’d seen myself in mum’s cheval mirror.
He’d told me he felt proud.

Not a man to talk to of feelings:
He’d never been able to hear
me cry, or bear my tear-stained cheeks.

The car glides past the roundabout,
The Crow’s Nest pub, the corner shop
where we’d buy Sunday papers,
chocolate for me, in the life I was leaving.
It moves past the pavement where
I’d roller-skated with my friends.
Now I am a woman, twenty-one,
and the groom is waiting. After
the photo, we begin the long slow
walk up the aisle to my future.
Dad’s steps are steady as heartbeats.
He loves me enough to let me go.

Two years later, months into a hollow winter
and it is I who must let my father go.
Dad is lying down ahead of us,
swathed in white flowers as we make
the reverse journey from church.
The funeral car pauses outside our house,
where I no longer live. Mum clutches my arm.

 

AT Letting Go back and front cover final version for Angela medium high res

 

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