Guy Fawkes Night, 80 years ago. Dad born 1905. Mum born 1911.
With the passing years they become more and mysterious to me. The past is another country. You can’t go back there.
Startled by parents
the things about them that they never hid,
just left quietly unsaid.
There was one who’d filleted a python,
and who launched a stuffed crocodile
on a Norfolk mere one summer’s night.
These are the stories we go on telling,
that gather detail, year on year.
Not in the same world as the one
in which my mother learned
to drive a car.
Not in the one where someone told me
my father liked a bet, followed the form,
was familiar with racetracks.
I can’t imagine them at all,
or, if I did, I’d get them wrong,
my mother young
and long before me, with a chap
whose name I never knew;
white shoes, maybe,
a Morris with a running board;
my mother who learned
to double de-clutch,
to manage sparks and chokes,
to rattle with insousiance
down country lanes
in a velours hat that never once
blew off, laughing with a man
I cannot picture.
My dad at Aintree, or Pontefract,
a jacket with a nipped-in waist,
a tie pin, natty trilby;
binoculars, fivers in a roll,
an eye for a winner,
an eye out for spivs.
They were glamorous,
louche and chancy
and I never knew them at all .
[By which I mean there is so much I never knew, and wish I did. I miss them.]