Father - Mary Wood

Short man, small man,
He makes his piano sing,
Playing all day, his beautiful music, 
whilst mum’s out working,
making old ladies’ grey hair blue. 
In the candle-lit evening, 
Exotic incense burns.
A tatty, red rug covers floorboards.
She sits and listens.
Smoking, she stares at an empty fireplace.
The door is closed to us children.
No written music, just his unwritten dreams, 
Played-out on the black and white keys.
White and black,
Day and night.
No job.

Sometimes the mood changes,
Magical music from a needle on black vinyl.
Suddenly the room is full of striking clocks,
Or a hundred-million bicycle bells,
Ringing and ringing, louder and louder.
It’s so loud now I cover my head with my pillow
Knowing the neighbours will bang on the wall… 
But he doesn’t hear them.
His eyes are closed,
In his head he sees his unwritten dreams.
Played-out on the black and white keys.
White and black,
Day and night,
No job.

They’re out walking together, hand-in-hand, 
Pretending together. 
So secretly I sneak into
The Adults’ Room and
Hunting around, I find the red-coloured Ravel,
Beneath the empty green bottle of sweet, ginger wine.
The smell from the ashtray spills into the air.
I’ve learnt music at school, 
I can decipher these black marks and lines;
But I didn’t know then, how those black marks and lines, 
Like written words, frightened him.
White and black, 
Day and night.
No job.

It’s difficult, but I have time
To decipher these marks and lines; 
Black music on white.
A few minutes, here; a few minutes there. 
My brothers’ upstairs,
They don’t know my heart is beating – they don’t care.
Memories of his fierce eyes, 
The short, small man, transformed into a raging, angry man, 
Just a Jealous Guy,
With Ravel’s red face.
Carrying hatred, of me, my mum, 
of the world.
Guilt makes me nervous, but the music is beautiful, 
My small hands stretch to sharps and flats.
(The white keys unexpectedly cold).
My feet cannot quite reach the pedals. 
Not yet.
It’s difficult, but I have time.
Just no teacher.

Contributor's Note

Mary was born in the UK. After working in diverse commercial sectors, she returned to her education to achieve her ambition to teach. Her spare time was spent travelling the world, sketching and writing. Later, she moved to New Zealand where currently she is a lecturer at the University of Waikato.


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