Home » Issues & Poems » Issue Nine » Father Lost Lost

Father Lost Lost

Ian McEwan

‘Father lost lost’ began in October 2011. My father’s health deteriorated sharply. I’d been writing a lot of repetitive structures, such as the poems in The Stammering Man (Templar 2010), so a snippet from Claudius’ speech of phoney consolation in Hamlet Act 1, scene ii seemed an interesting title. The first section of the poem spilled out whole, in free-ish verse. However, I’d been thinking about prose poetry and redrafted without line breaks. When I returned to the electronic draft a week later, I’d been too lazy to remove the auto capitalisation of initial words from the old lines: I’d also started work on the section about heart arrhythmia. The syncopated capitals complicate the flow, make it uncomfortable, as well as (sort of) raising the metaphysical status of some words. They also make the poem interesting to perform! These pieces became the models for a sequence, which partly resolves that initial rawness. Some sections were entered in the Cinnamon Press Poetry Collection

Competition and the poem will appear in Intermittent beings due from Cinnamon in the autumn. Late in drafting I wanted to bring the text closer together, so the other Hamlet snippets moved from section titles to become splinters inside the text. Finally, it would be remiss not to mention Valérie Rouzeau’s book length sequence Pas Revoir and Susan Wicks’ translation Cold Spring in Winter (Arc, 2009). I read the book in 2009 and deliberately have not read it again, but certainly some of the feel of the language is related to it, as is the subject matter.

Father Lost Lost


and here bent forward at the Wind insensible in this world as through Glass he

Hauls, become mere hauling


and it’s another Poem of Dead Dads or dads not dead but blown against their

Absence like stock metaphor that drip Drip drips – the family Photo and how the

Mower rusted stiff over its Butterfly of oil distils a sepia tincture in the garage –

a concrete Stain and the paint does never cover


and the Volume on the Telly stuck at full on Daytime jokes/disasters all as

squashy as the Sofas like that Cowboy torture where they cut the Lids away and

soon enough he cannot see – now must this Wind still wear upon the Ears


and Macula, that Spot original and growing as the Bubbles break and tear and

blow the surfaces away to What was never always there Degenerate in this world

every loss leads into never finished Constant Present, new tense he taps into

forward: always ahead


his small Tent far out upon the Ice – and this Wind



which is the stick you Stuck with stuck the wrong stick in the Stick-stand or

standing at a standstill, Too Short she says, the stick girl and it’s underStandable

but here you stick and Make a stand


which is the penitent, the Christmas film, Bent as that man slipped Under blades

and Bend you to remain, tapping Forward ticking forward, tipping forward One

stick at a time against This breath this gale insensible, reflected on the glass as all

the lost ark of your head Bent and the ground


which is become a Punctuation, pause, the tap of Stick the stuck of breath the

stiffened arc of Back turned like a mark invented to pretend pretend that each

Half finished thing is


which is to bow the bowe the Bark of bowow time is pulling taut the tendon

shortens Ticking as the span pulls In a sinking or a tension fit to launch


sticks Lately after us Which is more Useable than bones



where is each second Kicking him with Offbeats vicious in The heart insists Insists

it Can in peevish opposition tense against the Dark the Bed the push placed wrong


where there’s No righting the lopsiding Mop of pillows Dad cranes forward from

His His Bed the frame the life he won’t lie back on Forward the wrong accent in

this clinic clinical clinic, the cardiac that Kicks him and the can All down


where there is a Mop to push, a mop that clangs against the Can, a day job and a

night job but no second Dark not really and the shock is Bars across a window in

the pastel care and there is no is Not escape where the Mop Mop moping of the

heart goes Forward


where our lopsided Clocks are strewn and Tock Tock Tock not ticking proper but

it’s the beat you stick with and where God is but a better Ear than us had better

be a better Ear


and blowing comes Stravinsky where his Stethoscope



as the survivor Bound to paths to lists the ark of Clocks that wind and Wind that

ticks the clicking in the paper house Insists the ear insists the post and Taps that

drip and paint and stain insists on still these Hills


as the Survivor bound to concrete As in forms to fill And files to find to fix in

mind the game the objects, sticks and Paints, Insists on pillows mowers, spots

stuck on Petals, hills, to correspondence by the Clocks and ticks to bills and with

the hills inside the Glass


as the Survivor bound to logic, stuck held or pretended that A scope A variable

hope A bound A limp A lope blown Lopsided forward into logic Bent and tapping

towards trope


as the survivor Bound to find The form to haul the line to Form the plot To fix

the Drip to Stick The Paper butterflies all in


and only to survive



and Who behind the glass all dripping Supercooled, bent and hauled, that bows

and bowes the present Past the penitence of hills and who


and who Takes it to tick and tock and Drip and drop that cardiac Caress, the

flapping tent of chest, that heart unfortified and Butterflied from routine beauty

morning Duty in your nature in the Dark and who


and who for What we know Why should We retrograde in going Back to school

among the beds and sofas you Must Know your father any the most vulgar thing

to sense whose Common theme is: flourish, exeunt all but, who


and who upon this Spot lopsided broken Butterfly along the row, the Daddy

cabbages of hope, it shows a will the Stick and net contraption the Wind tears and

wears and where we stop and Mop and Hoe and Hoo


who Still hath cried a Fault against the Dead and who



one is the Echo of the street at four, the Bell and after as kids drift, small growlers

into Evening polyester blue, and finished, stopped, the wind is like the Bell at four

o’clock you find it when it is never finished in the Ear


one is the Petal turned lopsided, bent on the carpet, geranium, the fade making

the picture just as any three points plot a curve and where His hills line up all

afternoon or we pretend the hills


one is or two just One or Two the breaking little flakes their metal Butterflies and

each one different the same, pepper the green, Mop into stone, become and

unbecome in Dark


one is the bird that starts it now, no sleep for That one optimist deluded in the

Dark that just One day from solstice must be and is at least one thing to Sing for,



and Early better than One second Late

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