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Adults Runner-Up Conversations without my father By James McNally

My father was a subtle man -
we'd never known until he left
the multitude we were now bereft
from things reserved for 'next of kin'.

My father was a playful man -
lining up toy soldiers on the mantelpiece
for imaginary skirmishes over the fireplace
and he would always let me win.

My father was a musical man -
a guitar in his lap or tickling the ivories
while I held tight to a microphone,
and, together, we made such a beautiful din.

My father was a learned man -
a psychologist, he'd teach me signs
for 'hello', and 'thank you', the ways he spoke
to deaf and nonverbal children.

My father was a tired man -
driving to and from engagements,
new challenges, schools and parents
who might have seen his help as giving in.

My father was an ailing man -
the first time I saw an ambulance
sirens blaring, pulling into the driveway
I was just a boy of ten.

My father was an ornery man -
at least from my juvenile perspective -
we quarrelled fiercely, and I regret
a lot of what, in haste, was spoken.

My father was a distant man
and I'd soon move on to a distant land -
still, the occasional basic greetings
the affordance of the telephone.

My father was a young man,
relatively speaking -
sixty-six, to be precise -
and left not long after his work was done.

My father was a quiet man -
so many things I wish I'd said, instead
left to reconcile with his belongings
read his papers, speak with his writing hand.