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He lies in the foetal position
eyes closed, mouth open
white skin and bone
a ninety year old
withered child

He has embarked
on his last big sleep
and drifts a mile off shore
on the liquid sea

Dad, I call out, it’s me, Alan
I sit at his bedside patiently
His lips begin to move
Oh… Alan, he murmurs

All he needs for Christmas
is his four front teeth

Is this really the same man
who ruled the Sunday roast
cooked mountainous meals
as if war rationing was
about to return?

Was this who taught me chess
and chased me
roaring like an ogre
around the flowering beanstalks?

Open wide, I say, and spoon
some creamy yoghurt into
his gawping baby-bird mouth

I play ‘forties band tunes
March of the Dambusters
Can you hear the music? I ask
but conversation is impossible

He floats on the gentle waves
of his orthopaedic bed
memories passing over him
like pale clouds

At last it is time
My mouth close to his ear
I call out to sea
Dad, open your eyes

I want him to see me
his son, one last time
this image a reminder
of the life he once lived

I stroke his head
And kiss his wafer skin
Dad, I’m going now
Slowly a crinkled eyelid
peels up

I peer in
There’s a flicker of light inside
Going? he croaks from afar
Yes, back to America

We are bound by bonds
Unchanged by time or space

I stand, gaze down at him
his eyes closed, mouth open
drifting further out to sea

Sleep well, my father
sleep well
Safe voyage
to the farthest shore

Alan Denman

Alan is a British novelist and filmmaker, living close to nature on a boat on the River Thames with his beautiful wife Ayesha and a feisty cat called Lucy. He loves the philosophy of Joseph Campbell and carries this quote inscribed in his heart: "Follow your bliss and doors will open where you thought there were none".

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