Four Poems by Tony McAndrew
Beloved, Cherished, Devoted
In Loving Memory, it said,
Beloved husband of… (I won’t name names)
Devoted wife of… mother to…
Cherished daughter of … son of…
All sadly missed.
Row upon row, it would seem
the very ground beneath my feet
seeded with love that will never flower again.
But I wonder if there is dishonesty underfoot,
interred alongside, for never is it carved
Here lies a horrid old bastard,
drunkard and thief.
Yippie! Dead at last!
No loss and not before time.
Or Here Rests in a Peace she doesn’t deserve
a vicious bitch, child thrasher,
miser and cheat.
Good riddance to the old slag.
It’s powerful I imagine,
even in the absence of grief
to not speak ill of the dead,
that in death there must be forgiveness,
some kind of reconciliation in
order to move on,
or at the very least barefaced denial.
Knives, forks, spoons.
“Where’s them-thar eatin’ irons?” I asked Lisa at her party.
“Over there,” she nodded. “Top drawer.”
Always the top drawer, I thought,
can they not survive elsewhere?
All laid in their open graves,
knives to the right, spoons to the left,
the forks as ever in the middle.
Teaspoons, of course, across the bottom,
dainty-silly, tomb-lid dogs at their feet.
Knives are the quick-clever things, or so they think,
erect prophets to be respected or feared,
carvers of truths, pleasure and, it has to be said, wounds.
Spoons; things of face-cupping and reflection,
bosoms, smooth-softness and love. Strength.
Feminine, if this is sayable still.
But the forks? And their smile of tines?
Well, they’re just getting on with it.
Aren’t we all?
Knives, forks, spoons.
Stung useless by remorse,
life’s canyon edges
we feel our way along,
before us always
the sheer drop.
Why is it so hard to say sorry,
admit our wrong?
And the bridges we do build
we throw ourselves from.
It remains unprocessed, forty years now and counting.
Took a lad, not twenty, to the spinal unit.
Been riding in the boot of a car for a laugh
on the way home from a dinner session
when it crashed
along with his life.
Painful as it is, I have to tell you
he cried all the miles there.
Nothing I could say mattered.
We both knew.
The hospital on the edge of the hiking moors,
the ward a flat row of beds filled with the numbed,
watching from the mirrors angled above them.
Back in the Arms tonight his friends
raise their glasses.
Here’s to Billy! See you soon mucker!
Beers are on us when you get home!
I imagine the dark, silent ward,
the dim light from the nurse’s desk,
the ogre of her shadow on the wall behind
captured in the mirrors.
And the boy quietly weeping.
I continue to walk on his behalf when I remember to,
each and every step a respect.
What else can you do?
After having what little education thrashed into me by nuns caned out of me by grammar school, I kept a promise to himself to begin writing when I finished doing tedious stuff like working full time. After a wander through psychiatric nursing, the Met Police and almost thirty years as a frontline paramedic the time seemed about right. I still work now and again in Primary Care somewhere in South Wales and live happily on the Gower indulging in writing, reading, talking, drinking beer and floating in the sea with my wife Elaine.
To date I have had three novels and a collection of short stories published.
My verse is, of course, shaped by my experience. Hopefully reader, you will find it insightful, sad, funny, truthful, profane and everything in between but always accessible.
Happy to answer any questions. Like the truth, I’m out there. Somewhere. Get in touch.