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My Father's Paranoia
That hot Sunday
he wanted the hedge cut very badly:
It must be done now, he said.
I said I’d do it when I was less busy
but that was too late for his paranoia
which was already muttering to him
that the Evening Sentinel would report him
for an overgrown hedge:
“Local Ex-Teacher’s Hedge A Disgrace.”
He reckoned the neighbours would spy on us
less easily with a trimmed hedge
(don’t ask me how).
So he went out with secateurs, shears
and hacked at laurel and fir
as if they were the neighbours
and we couldn’t stop him
even when he was in a sweat, trembling,
falling over, fitting, minor-stroking
on the ground, back in his chair,
his hands still jerkily pruning:
paranoia still on his lips:
and all I know now
is how un-busy I actually was
that hot Sunday.
My friends were disappointed it was only a yellow mini:
you could have chosen a Rover at least and a better colour.
They ate the Roses they brought for me next day themselves
doubly disappointed by my bruises, lack of broken bones.
It was different for my sister. When it happened the phone
started ringing back home and before my father picked it up
she was in tears and couldn’t explain why. This was when
we were in our teens, not always together as we had been,
as if telepathy is a sign of a closeness already in the past.
After you died
they found a spare room
full of presents
waiting for our visit
from C.D.s and books
to annuals and board games
to cobwebbed teddies
and unsleeping dollies
Reduplicative Paramnesia, Shrewsbury Flower Show, 1997
For my father
During those two hours of panic we should have known
we’d find him not dawdling over decking or azaleas
but in the car park, patting for keys, trying to get home.
Even before right hemisphere malfunction
everything outside his front door seemed mere detour
every excursion an annoying prelude to recursion,
holidays just delays, work a hanging-on the bell for lunch, tea;
at concerts his palms pushed down on chair arms
prepared for triumphal return of the home key.
But now, whether in living room from holiday, concert, work
or on family day out in Shropshire, he’s permanently lost,
inside or out, his whole world a reduplicating car park.
Lost World, Liverpool, 1989
My father didn’t and later couldn’t recall the wrong turn
through Merseyside mists on the way to the Manx ferry
and we never found the quayside road again
that Jurassic world of the dock’s industrial past
which we bumpily trundled past
our mouths open like evangelicals
faced with the brontosaurean hulks of miles upon miles
of cargo ships, super-tankers fossilised in rust
rearing above us and our car,
a scared mammal scampering under their titanic gaze,
and we felt that if we reached out in disbelief to touch them
they might disintegrate into brown dust,
fragile as memory.
Jonathan Taylor is an author, lecturer and critic. His novels are Melissa (Salt, 2015), and Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012). His other books include
the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013), and the memoir Take Me Home: Parkinson's, My Father, Myself (Granta Books, 2007). He lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester in the UK.
His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk.