Written for a talk William gave on 6.7.2020 for Online Events called
Men & the Quest for Soul: A Mythopoetic Journey
Meeting the Fisher King again
Preparing for tonight,
I thought I might invite my father,
or more properly conjure him —
call him up from the drunken hell
he plunged himself into fifty years ago.
I’d hoped we could have a conversation,
talk things through, as you do in a men’s group.
Hard that — mainly because he’s dead —
but also, people tend to get nervous
when poets start talking to imaginary beings.
It’s happened lately, once or twice in dreams,
but it’s always messy. You know how it goes —
things start getting serious, then in a trice,
you notice you’re naked and standing on stage,
or somehow, you’ve become a one-eyed salmon
leaping for the golden hazelnuts of knowledge
or a starling in a murmuration of millions,
an ecstasy of curves and parabolas – then gone.
So, there’s this thing I’ve been wanting to do —
a difficult thing — for a couple of years now.
I’ve wanted to tell him that I forgive him;
that the drink and the madness, the shaming
and the wounding, have fallen away.
That I see him, standing there, just a man.
Maybe you’re in the same place too. Maybe
you want to speak to your old man:
to his ghost, or his fetch, or that bit of him
that you still carry with you, everywhere.
Maybe you could bring him out to join you.
Imagine us all in one big room together —
dads in the middle, sons around the edge.
Imagine calling-out what you need to say.
Thanks for working so hard to get me through…
You bastard, you could’ve let me win one…
I was watching the football and I miss you…
Just want to say, I think I understand now…
Imagine us gathered there, milling around,
our broken, damaged and damaging bodies
leaning in, unspeaking, towards each other.
What is it – right now – that you want to do?
What might you need to bless or absolve?
What’s between you and that man, your father?
What is your question? “What ails thee, Nuncle?”
© William Ayot
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