And Bob’s Your Uncle
No he’s not! Not quick either.
Like Jesus, comes at Christmas.
Not a knee to climb on,
nor cheek to kiss: he’s Mr Alty,
someone to thank for the hard
jigsaw or glossy book
with pages stiff enough
to cut a thumb. Above my head
a table set with turkey salad,
mince pies, piled and sugar-dusted,
and, iced in secret, gaudy cake.
Remember Mother dotting with cherries,
sprinkling hundreds and thousands,
beckoning to whisper ‘Go
and talk to Bob.’? Not Mr Alty anymore,
though he’s the same bewildered man,
who had been altered, dazed for life:
A hand grenade blew up in his face
obliterating all his dreams; his fiancee
married someone else. It was easier
to talk to him before I knew. His eyes
struggle behind spectacles that never
bring a sharpening. I search for words
to show I’m here, but can’t begin.
Last night we drove through darkening streets
of a home town left behind ten years ago.
I saw his uncertain figure listening for
a gap in traffic, turning this way and that.
But it’s too late now … those Christmas teas
when he’d bring round his home-made wine
have yielded to bleaker rituals.
Chastened by losses of my own, I know
no words of mine could waken more
than his tongue-tying ‘yes, mmm.’