Dad

i.

I hate the fishing-with-dad trope, but you are my dad, I am a writer, and you took me fishing.

We go fishing with my primary school class,

An excursion in grade three.

I am proud-chested to have a father who

Knows what to do with the endless

Tangle and tackle of fishing

Lines and hooks.

I’ve always preferred

The fresh water of

Creeks and lakes

To chlorine pools,

The dirt and algae of another

Ecosystem, independent of our own.

I slip my feet out of sneakers and socks

Into ponds made of snow,

The dank sludge of tadpoles and

Mosquito larvae.

You pass me the rod to hold, my

Small arms tire quickly.

The grab and gravity of water

Feels like a bite, but isn’t.

You catch the biggest fish of all

My classmates and their parents.

You pretend I caught it, reeled

The flailing body in

With only a little help.

You wink at me as I

Lap up admiration

From the boys who usually

Call me ugly, and push each other

Into me, exclaim disgust at

Accidentally touching me.

The trout has a slash of

Pink down its side, like a sunrise.

You show me how to slip

Fingers under the gills

Into slippery flesh and something

That feels like cartilage or gristle,

Its throat resting in the Y of my hand.

*

ii.

The intimacy of shaving

Boar-bristle brush

Clinks the side of the sink.

Lather a bar of soap.

Intrigue of morning

Grooming rituals, a

Longing to take part

(Mother would not let me
take her birth-control pills).

“Why do you shave, daddy?”

“So I don’t scratch you with

my whiskers when I kiss you.”

“Can I shave too?”

“You don’t have any whiskers!”

When you cut your chin or
cheeks, you suck a leaf of tissue

And stick it to the wound.

You dab soapsuds

soft over my cheeks,

shave them away with

a hooked finger.

When I am older I

Shave my legs in the shower,

Quick and rough against the

Timer –always a banging

On the door and “too long in there,

The tank’s nearly empty.”

The razor constantly
nicks the same thin

slice of ankle that takes

forever to stop bleeding.

In a hotel room bath

My lover shaves my legs

With care I’ve never taken for

Myself, delicate and hardly

Touching, and not one

Spot of blood.

*

iii.

How to build a house

You built this house with your

Hands, so it was like your hands

Sheltered us, held us.

Building a house is like

Building a story;

(Houses have storeys too)

there is a structure to it.

You have your foundations,

Your themes, your characters,

Your plots

Of land.

Poetry is different.

You can’t plan it the same way;

You walk in one direction and

End up somewhere different

(but no less honest).

Primo Levi writes that
writing is like manual
labour:

“You make a plan, at least
mentally, an outline, a
design, and then you try
to make a product as close
as possible to the plan.”

I begin with the shape of it.

You cut your hand open on a

Metal brace. The skeleton of the

East-facing wall. Your blood,

Your sweat. Literally
in this house.

You needed stitches, couldn’t

Work for weeks, though

It didn’t stop you trying.

*

iv.

Chicken Necks

Collapsing into the weeks after
feels too easy, lubricated by
whiskey and wine.


Were you dressed in
blue? You were always
shrouded in blue. Blue flannel,
blue jeans, button shirts,
blue eyes, blue mood.
Blue fingers and lips in
winter. Circulation of your
blood too weak to
keep you warm.
Every muscle stiff, shivering
in woollen socks and thermals.

I sleep with my hands
clasped between my
thighs to keep them warm
through the night. My feet
can almost touch the fire and
still feel cold.

In a market square, the sight
of plucked chickens
strung up by their necks
is too much for me. The air

Thins in my lungs, my hands
feel numb and cold with sweat.
I find the nearest bathroom
to retch up what I haven’t eaten.

*

v.

Howling

In the night, I let it out, a

Caged animal, loose in the
paddock. Grass up to my knees.

It screams its freedom,

Beats hooves on packed dirt

Until they bruise and crack and bleed.

*

vi.


Hecate

It was once considered
a sin to suicide, so those
who did could not be
buried in consecrated ground.

The were buried then at
crossroads, in the hopes their
malign ghosts would not
find ways back to haunt their homes.

A Christian superstition that lacks empathy.

But the pagan gods come to find you;

Hecate guards the crossroads.

You’ll recognise her by her
three faces, and three black dogs.

I leave offerings –a stick of incense,

A jar of honey, a snippet of hair –

At the crossroads I walk,

So she will know to guide you

Over the river Styx and on

To the summerlands.

*

Vince Ruston (24) edits poetry for Voiceworks and dabbles in writing across all forms. They also dabble in gardening, sewing, feminist philosophy and witchcraft. They live with their fiancée and two cats named Persephone and Vivienne. They have just completed their Honours in creative writing through RMIT university.

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