20 October 2011


There's a man I know whose life is ruled by habits and the clock. He was married in the mid-seventies when he and his wife bought a house very similar to ours but just round the corner. They had three children who have all now flown the nest. Sadly, his wife died of breast cancer two years ago. Now he lives in what was once a family home filled with the busyness of everyday life. Ruling over all of it was his wife who kept him in line as much as the children. He lives alone, surrounded by the flotsam and jetsam of that rich past life. Retired from work with, most days, only the four walls and the radio to keep him company. I wrote this poem with him in mind.

A Widower

We lived within these walls -

Janet , our babies

And me.

I can still hear echoes -

The ringing of the phone,

Those late for school mornings,

Birthdays and bonfires,

Laughter and tears -

We lived it all.

That’s her favourite perfume.

That’s her side of the wardrobe.

That’s a letter from outpatients.

That’s the bed

Where we made

Our children in the dead of night

Like breathing air.

That’s Sally’s room.

That’s Paul and Jeffrey’s.

This is the fridge

Yes it’s almost bare.

This is her hairbrush

With strands of her hair.

And that, that was Janet’s chair -

But I can never sit there

I sit by the phone.

It makes me feel

Somehow less alone.

And sometimes they ring

The children I mean

Bulletins from their new lives

And places they have been

Later with silence re-released

I stare at our mantelpiece

That day in April, 1974

Standing in confetti

By the very same church door.


  1. JOHN Rest assured it's not me. I was just imagining my friend's situation. I'm fine.

  2. A lovely poem, YP which I can relate in large part to my dad. Mum died ten years ago next month and I think he would echo many of those sentiments. (My sister and I ring him every day though!)

  3. You are getting very melancholy these days.

    Time for another trip out east. I will keep you posted.

    Lovely poem though.

    The outpatients letter never opened- a cultural depth charge waiting to go off in the meaning as Ray Hearne used to say.

    Very resonant.


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