Your gob packed a punch like a fist –
any opponent floored by a come-back.
Like Ali, your one-liners would float then sting
until you punched above your weight;
and were punched by my fist for your gob. Ali,
my girl, it’ s time to knuckle under –be a butterfly.
You talk gobshite, need a jab to stop your jabber.
You’re inside my ring now: I watch you twist it
around your third finger, trying to box clever
staying silent, but I know your twisted thinking
as you watch Countdown – other contenders’
way with words. Face it: you were never one.
But now you’re up and spitting blood,
saying, inside of a ring or out,
ain’t nothing wrong with going down.
It’s staying down that’s wrong. And I’m dumb.
Death Certificate, Burnt Oak
Dealing with the paperwork of dying,
the registrar looks dead bored, and, sighing,
he asks for my dad’s place and date of death
and birth, job, names, and last usual address.
As he writes it down, his signet ring gleams
on his little finger. He looks up, leans
towards my mother, and his pen is poised,
as he asks her, as wife of the deceased,
her name, and, at last, her occupation.
‘Housewife,’ she says. A hesitation,
he wrinkles his brow, and, again, he sighs,
taps his pen. ‘Is that all?’ ‘Yes,’ she replies,
and in her voice, there’ s no hint of recoil,
while I said nothing, but boiled. And still boil.
Death Certificate, Burnt Oak, was first published in the anthology The Book of Love and Loss.