Publication Date: January, 2019
Location: poetsonline.org, then go to Archive, then ‘Kissing’.
Genesis: This is a poem I would have written eventually. My Dad, Arthur, died in April 2000, and it’s still painful to think about that time, and to write about it. Yet it’s true what they say – poetry an be very cathartic, very healing. As can, I guess, any art form.
My Dad was skeletal, Like he’d just staggered out of Belsen. My fit, handsome father Had withered away as we watched, And wept. A fall Down the steps of a hotel in Kathmandu Triggered – or revealed – A crumbling vertebra. While recovering, he was diagnosed – Somewhat belatedly – With inoperable bowel cancer. “You have a year to live”, Said the doctor During our gloomy, tear-stained consultation. “With chemotherapy, you’ll live for two.” He chose chemotherapy, With all the pain and suffering that that entailed, And he was dead within nine months. The last time I saw him alive I knew it would be The last time I saw him alive, Lying shrivelled in his own bed, On his right side, Unconscious because of the morphine, Slipping away. As I left to go back to London I bent over, whispered, “Bye, Dad”, And kissed him on the cheek. I had a goatee at the time. He must have felt it scratch him, Even through the opioid haze, Because he puckered his lips weakly In a mock-kiss response. That was nearly nineteen years ago. The memory still makes me cry.