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Jonathan Taylor

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: 

clip-clip-clip-clippety-clip, 

paranoia still on his lips: 

mustcutthehedgemustcutthehedge- 

don’twanttheneighbourstoseethrough-

don’twantthepaperstoknow

 

and all I know now 

is how un-busy I actually was 

that hot Sunday.

Knocked Over

 

             For Helen 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Auntie

 

After you died 

they found a spare room

full of presents 

waiting for our visit

reverse archived 

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.