This poem was originally written several years ago, but I recently rewrote it for publication in the September edition of Australian literary journal Polestar.


In the photograph of my Grandfather that hangs over me

Death hangs as well


The old man stares away from the camera

Away from the machine

Which gives eternity to his image


The machine shows me what I would look past

If I saw the old man once again made flesh


Skin that is sagging

Down, down

Towards the ground

Beckoning, tempting, weighing the old man

Back to dust


Thinness in the upper chest

Where the muscles are wasting


And how he stares

Away from the camera


He is holding his walking cane,

Hooked like his nose

That handsome hooked nose

Under which his smile once lived


The cane rises, rises, and then slows

Curves, gently at first, then dives

Into a sudden fall


The photograph cuts off above the hands

Working hands, which never wanted to rest

Perennially black with engine oil –

Clanking sounds from the garage

Or making breakfast and tea –

Toast smells early morning


The photograph steals my grandfather’s hands

And already it is death who truly steals them

Death who takes us piece by piece


The photo hides as much as it reveals

It seems my grandfather stares into space

But he is looking at his tree

He is staring

Away from the machine

And into his tree



And what of the moment

After a cup of tea,

Skinny and weak as a starved pup

Still in love and revisited

By his old smile


What of the moment

When something broke inside

And my grandfather

Slumped to the strange-scented floorboards

Of my childhood, of his adulthood


Where is the photo:

The old man’s son,

Cradling his father’s small, limp body in his arms

Light as a child


What did my grandfather see last

Before the sudden dark

Was it profound?

Would it be worthy of a photograph?

Was it the beautiful face

Of his wife in her nightgown?

Or his son’s anguished face?

Not ready, not now, not now!


. . .


As a child kicking and struggling

To bed in the arms of their father

But finally glad of the good rest they receive

So did grandad slip away


Finally too tired to fight longer

Ready now to rest


Devoured by the hungry earth,

Torn mournful like a love letter,

Pulled apart so tenderly and dispersed:
Trembling flowers in the breeze,

Bright green leaves unfurling in dewy morning,

Food for the gods
I see him shining in each new birth of spring

2 thoughts on “Grandad

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