Reverse Pentimento

Reverse Pentimento

At the sound of the pigeons scratching in the gutters,
we both looked up;
your eyes the size of noodle bowls,
my stomach aflutter.

When the first big drops fell, the pigeons took flight,
you wrapped your arms around my legs,
and I bent down to hold you tight.

The front door sheet metal canopy
spattered its own language,
but you seemed to understand;
you told me to bolt the lock,
took me by the hand,
showed me the way to the miscellaneous drawer.

Get some candles, you said;
your words not yet cold
when lightning stole our electricity.

Delightful laughter over your lips
when I struck the last soggy match;
you sang: Happy Birthday to me!
while the fifth candle was hissing to life.

I burnt my fingers,
and a rogue gust of wind took all the flames;
I saw you in a different light,
darkness was juggling with my sight:
that angelic face hovering in front of my eyes,
only for an instant before being painted over,
layered in the colours of all life’s essentials,
which will eventually shape you, some – along the way – break you,
no more could I see your beautiful smile;
a toothless old woman was staring back at me.

Daddy, you whispered
(there was honest concern in your voice),
Is that you? You look so old, Daddy?

I didn’t answer.

A storm was brewing
inside my chest.

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