When he was first ill
I sent a card; later,
shunted between home
and hospital, chrysanthemums,
remembering in his old workshop tales
of quiet allotment evenings, young fellows -
gate-propping, not given to swank -
unbent slowly over plump, fiery blooms.
I got no reply to either,
didn’t expect one.
A closing of ranks,
that dark-suited Sunday sternness
rooted in chapel traditions,
straighter than pew backs
and hymns sung from memory.
A workman easy before God.
This Methodism learned from nights
spent late over clean ledgers,
clear copperplate columns.
But he turned a blind eye
to my working on the Sabbath,
no mention on Monday morning
back in old cardigan, faded corduroy,
purposeful through his Aladdin’s cave
of things saved. Sawing sometimes,
hammering often, wood screws, washers
nails, always an oil can to hand.
A deftness with rope, bowlines,
taking up slack, slip knots
half hitches and slow tautening
hand over hand.