This is my father’s child, Mother. My
half-sister, Marguerite, here
in this photograph. I know you are angry,
but bonds of blood compelled me here.
I had to see her; could not will her
into non-existence, as you do.
She should have been at Papa’s funeral,
she had the right. You would not allow it.
I understand. He had another
family, one we knew nothing
about, secreted in the snowy scrub
of central Saskatchewan. These are facts.
She is thirteen. Those trips–
to Ottawa, Papa said–returning sombre,
silent, grief scoring his back, the night
the telephone rang and you answered,
but no-one replied.
You are angry. So am I. Did we
know this man? And yet. She has his clear
grey eyes, that stolid wedge of chin, scimitar
nose, sudden smile. He phoned her, the afternoon
before he died, told her he loved her.
Never once told me. In twenty years, not
once, Mother, although I knew.
Such reticence left him lonely, a
planet orbiting a distant
sun, our silences a language, the body’s
mute offering. But here, in these horizontal
plains he was transformed, a man who told
his daughter she was the rain that greened
the parched and fallow fields
of his heart.
It’s Poetry Sunday on my Blog! Come share your poems in Comments… let’s celebrate the soul-voice that is poetry, together!
Post-Mortem is a narrative poem, inspired in part by the story of a woman I knew many years ago, who discovered, after her father died, that he had had a second, secret family. Thirty years later, I saw a photograph in a magazine of a young woman in riding gear, standing beside her horse… Somehow, it reminded me of that earlier story, and this poem emerged as a result.