Barely December

You were missing a strip of hair

above your right ear

it drew me to your earlobe

hanging low


to time and gravity

we sat in the sitting room

you, wearing your winter jacket

you were cold



on the couch


you were reading something

your lips moved in silence

then stopped

you closed the book


you tried to speak but

your voice was drowned

by a dam burst of memories

coming to rest just behind your eyes

you looked at me

unable to breathe

your face an apology


I wanted to reach for you

but with your eyes

you asked for time

we waited

you managed to say

“it was Christmas”

before your voice

turned to sand

and tears

heavy with salt

were brushed away


on the back of your hand


you closed your eyes

you cleared your throat

yet still, you couldn’t speak

I asked you what had happened to the hair

above your ear

you smiled

glad to be rescued

“your mother,

she forgot to adjust the hair clippers”

we laugh

you point at the television

there is a man demonstrating

an extendable hose

he sprays it in an arc

over a perfectly manicured garden

the grass is lush

“why isn’t my grass like that?”


we have dinner

my daughter gleefully pulls Christmas crackers

that you have bought for her

even though

it is barely December

you don’t eat much

you still wear your winter jacket

you tell me that the cold

is inside you

the lines on your face

are many and deep

you are eighty-one-years old

you are tired


we finish our dinner before the others

and return to the sitting room

the snooker is on

the crack of the balls

the whispered commentary

it could be thirty years ago

when you were a man

that didn’t cry

and I was the boy

you adopted

and loved right away


I ask you


what you had been thinking about earlier

you look puzzled

“it was Christmas…”

you try

I watch you try

“I can’t remember”


the crack of the balls

the whispered commentary

my daughter telling awful jokes badly

in the other room

I look over at you

smaller still and slumped

into your winter jacket

the collar raised high above your neck

the hairless strip above your right ear

the skin there, perfect

pale and soft

you are asleep

it is barely December



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