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Image by Caroline Forbes

The Fathers

The Fathers

All over the city, women in restaurants,
cafes, bars, wait for their fathers. Sometimes
the women sip coffee, or wine, pretend to read.
Some fathers arrive promptly, smiling,
dressed as Policemen, or in flannel pyjamas.
One wears a taffeta dress, fishnets and stilettos,
rubs the stubble under his make-up.
Sometimes the father is a Priest
in a robe stained with candle-wax.
Some have pockets gritty with sand
from Cornish holidays; one father
flourishes a fledgling sparrow, damp
and frightened, from an ironed handkerchief.
They bring spaniels, Shetland ponies, anacondas,
they bring yellowed photographs
whose edges curl like wilting cabbages.
One father has blue ghosts of numbers
inked into his forearm. Some of the fathers
have been dead or absent for so long
the women hardly recognise them, a few
talk rapidly in Polish or Greek and the women
shift on their chairs. Some sign cheques,
others blag a tenner. One smells of wood-shavings
and presents the woman with a dolls' house.
Some fathers tell the women You're getting fat
while others say, Put some meat on your bones, girl.
Some women leave arm in arm with their fathers,
huddled against the cold air, and shop
for turquoise sequinned slippers or Angelfish
hanging like jewels in bright tanks. Others
part with a kiss that misses a cheek - lint
left on coats, and buttons done up wrong.


from Lip (Smith Doorstop, 2007), © Catherine Smith 2007, used by permission of the author and The Poetry Business.

Recordings

Catherine Smith Reading from her poems

1How It All Started

2Losing it to David Cassidy

3Back

4The Fathers

5The Ewe

6The Set of Optics You Wouldn't Let Me Buy in Portobello Road Market, September, 1984

7Heckmondwike

8Blue Egg

9Simulacrum

10The Biting Point

11Snakebite

12Smoking and Reading Nietzsche in the Kardomah

13Ascension

14Baptism

15Cut

16Colin Pepper I Luv U

17Original Residents

18Sleep

19The New Bride

20Australia

21Calculation

22Cast

23Feral

24Hover

25Fontanelle

26Night

27Marcus

28Postulant

29Nectar

30Twin

31What's Required After a Day Teaching Poetry to Nine Year Olds

32Doors

33With Love, and the Date

34Prayers

35The World is Ending Pass the Vodka

Books by Catherine Smith