I’m not sure when my father wrote this poem, but my sense is, he penned it years after he left my mother with four children under the age of 13 and returned to England, where he had completed his basic training before embarking on a troop ship to fight his WWII battles in the stinking, fly-bitten sands of the Middle East.

There was a woman there in England — I will not say her name — for when dad heeded her siren call again after a decade of absence, his desertion broke my mother’s heart and left us destitute in so many ways. We never lost touch, though, because my mother believed that blood would tell.

As an adult, reintroduced to him in the weeks before my marriage when he returned to ‘give me away’, I found him melancholy, pensive, saddened in the knowledge of what he had left behind. I began to understand that his family, his real family that he had promised before god to be there for, ‘for better or worse’, had been too much for his broken self to survive. My mother had become a different woman — strong, independent, fierce in her determination to succeed in a hostile world. The ties that bound them had unravelled beyond repair. The second parting was sad but the inevitability was, I think, a relief.

But at his end, as he lay curled in that pristine hospital bed in the hushed palliative care ward, he knew from my touch, that I was still there for him. Because I was so much like my mother (and she taught me well), I never did give up on him.



For Hyacinthe

If time and distance contrive

to rob us of intimacy,

if absence tends to diminish

those memories of each other

we treasure so dearly,

of this be mindful:

Absence is merely a bridge

spanning the chasm of Time;

cross one and we ease the other.


For being one of each,

and each of the other,

we feel each with the other,

the torment and despair,

the reaching out for confirmation

that we are not lost,

each to the other.


For as much as we cannot recall

the fragrance of a summer rose

in the dark nights of mid-winter,

it does not follow

that the rose did not exist.


Remember therefore, that,

being one of each,

and each of the other,

I exist in you,

And you in me — irrevocably.