Back in the days when they used to visit every year
before everyone got too old for it
my lad would say ‘Do you know what?’
and his grandad would reply ‘well yes
actually, I do. He was in my class at school.
Always had an onion in his pocket
which he’d ferret out, take a bite
and back in his pocket it would go’.
Great Uncle John’s Great Dane
Used to wait stock-still, solemn-jowled
a trick shadow, pony sized
but with the wrong head
paying no mind to scraped knees,
wingnut ears, cowlicks, shouts and jeers
jumbling past over the other side of the wall,
eyes fixed only on bobbing school caps
just visible above the bricks
Gently, with purpose, he’d whip one off and trot away
chuffed with his prize.
Less gently, the lad wi’ a bare head
would get a clip round the ear come home time.
Later, there were Woodbines and apple scrumping,
kick-the-can, near-drownings off Seaton Carew
where the offshore wind blew you past the pier
out into the foothills of the North Sea
ketchup sandwiches for tea and sometimes pease pudding
A good stock of stories
for when your own dad came back
from the war with nothing to say.
Jilly O’Brien is a writer from Aotearoa NZ. She has had poems published in Landfall, Cordite, Takahē, Catalyst, The Spinoff, The Beach Hut, Otago Daily Times, Newsroom, and Blackmail Press as well as anthologies worldwide. She has had her poetry displayed on the ice in Antarctica, on benches in Dunedin, and on the back of parking tickets. This year she has been runner up in the Monica Taylor International Poetry Competition, and Highly Commended in the Charles Causley International Poetry Competition.