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KNOWING NONNO

September 9, 2018

 

I'm afraid all this talk of my father and the past, with its happy and sad vignettes, led to a poem. I wrote it to mark the anniversary of my father' s death, thirty one years ago, on the 12th August. It is intensely personal and I hesitated to publish it. But rereading it, I see now that it is a moment that may be true for so many women of my generation and background .

 

I remember each time I told you my happy news, I felt your joy.

And each time a little life ebbed away, I shared your tears.

I know you waited as long as you could to share my life and theirs.

Angry at the end, bitter and railing, not yourself.

A shell of the man you were, shrunken, pale, tired of it all.

I didn't recognise you then.

At the end, I thought there was not much to show for so many battles hard fought,

A life cut roughly in two, two continents breached but nothing gained.

What was it for?

At the funeral, I overheard two paesani - boys who had travelled with you to become men - their heads close together in grief.

"Here lies a gentleman", said one. "God has taken the best early", said the other.

 

And so, unlike their cousins, my children never met you.

And yet, they know you.

They know the broad smile that lit up your eyes -

Stephanie has that in her keeping.

How she would have loved you, the funny sayings that we all recited ahead of you. 

Your love for the good things in life - sweet pleasures - chocolates, wine and the sea. 

The playhouse of our life's theatre was the back seat of your car.

Always going somewhere new, small adventures in our small lives. 

 

In Nic, we know your dark side. Sunshine and shade.

Life's measure was simple - black and white, right and wrong - why couldn't everyone see that?

You were a man out of step.

Rules that nobody obeyed except you - and us.

And deep inside a dread of failure, of not measuring up. 

Nic keeps your work hat close to him, always.

He knows the smell of you, the contours of your head and face. 

 

There is a gap at all our feasts - sacred days and workday meals.

I don't know if there is a heaven or a hell - if we have to endure one to achieve the other.

I don't know how, or why, we endure life's difficult terrain, the wild geography of our hearts' journeys.

But I know you are here. 

 

 

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