How easy for me, your son,
youthful lungs trawling in one sweep –
cigar smoke, omelette, the girl
next door. One day I told you
how in physics we’d calculated
each lungful held billions of atoms Galileo’d inhaled.
It took a full week
for you retort – as always
off the nail. Must be I’ve used it all then –
from Siberia to Antarctica,
slack-pit to spire.
That’s why each draw’s so bloody hard.
Left me speechless.
Till, catching you that night at the foot
of your Jacob’s Ladder, ascending
to the one bulb of the landing toilet,
I told you how I’d checked with sir:
You can’t use it all, I piped
not in a hundred million years.
You’ll get better dad, just wait and see.
Your mouth a slur, suspended
over your chest. Fist
white on the rail.
Don’t hold your breath son, you said.
Feeling For Eggs
You have given, and given, until giving has grown
into habit – so that you move to the stove
without thought, without word, the moment
the green of my jacket stipples your window:
ladle the soup that is always ready, rearrange
the condiments, or slop eggs for the beaten track
of an omelette. Sometimes, I can almost believe
you pass the day moving from stove to telly and back
again; or taking the one leather bag to the shops
for the loaf, the eggs you stow as though they might
ignite, two words with the butcher: was tender; was tough.
The odd hour spent in the husbandry of bills.
You hoard your knowledge of the man who died, left you
with sons: onion skin copies with their own
lives. You keep that knowledge safe, as though telling
might erase it. The pruning of decades takes your words
beyond the graft of mine. So, you listen, tolerate
the electric hotplate, the central heating;
were happier with the sooted cauldron twenty of you
could have your fill from, the firewood chopped
by your father, brought by donkey. You grew
maize from seed, knew how to feel
for an egg in the chicken. We sit in silence now,
with English tea to sip, some soup, until I have
to go. You follow as far as the empty drive, wave
as you stoop for a windfall branch,
add it to the wood pile you keep in the garage
that year by year inches towards the eaves.
Mario Petrucci (Londen, 29 november 1958)