‘Father, father, I dread this air
Blown from the far side of despair,
The cold cold corner.

from THE CHILD DYING by Edwin Muir, Collected Poems (Faber and Faber Ltd.)

(for Mathew)



Your head is full of trees
And the leaves have fallen.

Your eyes are full of lakes
And the water’s frozen.

Your ears are full of birds
And the songs are stolen.

Your mouth is full of skies
And the clouds are ashen.

Your heart is full of fields
And the grass is barren.

Your soul is full of hills
And the paths are broken.

Your life is full of caves
And the dark is open.


February world is a cold world;
February world is cold.
The wind comes across the field of graves
To winter body and face.

February world is a grey world;
February world is grey.
Like nightmares of snow, the sky shows clouds
That move in a heavy mood.

February world is a hard world;
February world is hard.
The grass is as coarse as leather shreds;
The cross stands in clinkered sod.

February world is a dulled world;
February world is dulled.
Leaves are flung to the wind like regrets;
Grief is a re-opened cut.

February world is a sad world;
February world is sad.
The dead child, the father who survives;
The flower pot clogged with ice.

February world is a dry world;
February world is dry.
The day is a funeral of thoughts;
The past is a frozen knot.


On Sundays, we go to attend to his grave:
The large, paper cornet foaming with flowers;
And our eyes as dry as the surrounding stones.
His smile and small darkness are vinegar
Memories stinging the cut cord of our living love.
His white cross stabs the formal grass. His photos,
Wordless elegies, inhabit my wallet.


There is no language to say I miss you.
Yet sometimes in the working day
(When worries enter my being
More quickly than the appropriate words),
My body movements freeze
And my mind seizes the one thought,
And I stare like a man fooled by it all:
Like a fox crossing a long field,
Suddenly stopping dead
To stare back at the cornered past:
The ghost of a fox hanging in its head.


I once made a cross for my dead son’s grave.
I purchased two pieces of perfect wood;
Unskilled and unsure, I laboured slowly:
Marking, sawing and chiselling the joints.
I thought of other fathers shaping wood
Into well-made cots and nursery chairs:
The prepared gifts for their lives’ new fullness.
I sharpened its longest length to a point.
My brown hands soon held the reason for Christ.
I painted it white and then let it dry;
With a small, fine brush and a pot of black,
I added his name, his age, R.I.P.,
And the September date of his young death.
I went up to his grave with fresh flowers
And I hammered the cross into wet ground.
It stood, declaring his eight months on Earth;
It stood, coldly stabbing the emptiness.



I bury you softly in thoughts like snow;
I wear my grief, my black flower of pain.
My thoughts are prayers that can never reach home;
I tend to your grave in the cold of cold rain.

Peter Thabit Jones © 2016

Published in THE LIZARD CATCHERS by Peter Thabit Jones, 2006