LUCK (FOR GARY AND JOCK)

When I was small
in the days of The Witch
my mother
cried down the payphone
at the end of the road
and my brother
didn’t understand.
Grey years passed
I passed a test
got into a grammar
in a second-hand blazer
and hand-me-down shoes.
Never boarded a plane til nineteen
no holidays
or trips abroad
no phone til I was ten.

Age twelve, I saw mum graduate
in Canterbury Cathedral
Nan so proud,
that ancient woman
once left black and blue
by a husband who rots
in his Llandygwydd grave
Dad’s dad,
Gary
got sucked under the Thames
drowned in ‘83
he was forty-five and I was foetal.
Jock was eaten by cancer in ‘71
when mum was seventeen.
Jen’s Michael stabbed
on a Walthamstow Saturday night
back in ’88.
Charlie died a boozer
Ulster shrapnel
still embedded in his leg.
Derek went in Sydney just last year,
estranged and alone.
My brother’s lost his job
down Margate way
and mum’s let all the old rooms
to lodgers
to pay the bills.

One summer I helped mum
root around the loft
found Jock’s
London cabbie badge
metal dulled with the years
(mum keeps it now on the shelf)
and Gary’s driving license
dated 1973.
I took the yellowed paper
to my dad
and all he said was
‘that was awful that day.
He was a union man
you know.’

I think about luck and privilege.
I’m alive
I’m white and male and educated

And I know I’m lucky