Walleah Press


Waiting for a Phone Call

                                        (for Brian Petersen)
Your father used to drive us to sports in a taxi
smelling of vinyl & pipe tobacco.
His wheezing accent never suited to barracking,
we sometimes wished he would not cheer.
Sludge hissing in the bowl of his pipe.
With hourly injections to the stomach,
your father admits he is more than confused.
Here, for four days, where you are waiting
for a phone call, rain has prevailed.
Like fever subsiding,
the last log of wood has exhaled
its last spark of warmth.
Your children irritable with cold,
confinement, our tedious adult games.
They seem to ask - what is this strange old
house? Who are these people too ready with hugs?
In his medicated daze he has been mumbling
his obsolete childhood tongue;
buried Danish phrases whistle
from one sibilant lisping lung.
Does he recognise your children?
Their first glimpse of death.
Will they remember him without you?
To interpret photographs of him with pipe,
with pipe, with pipe.
We never had this fortitude when we were boys,
& now look at us.
It is unbearable but we bear it,
I see your strength and cannot imagine loss.
At 2am the phone call came; the spark gone,
nothing left but 6-&-a-half stone;
the thin hills of limbs beneath the sheets.
The platitudes of life with direction.
By necessity someone has to pay the bills,
buy school shoes, struggle on.
Soon, when the rain stops,
you'll return to the streets
in your taxi with its own ticking meter.

Mark O'Flynn writes poetry, fiction, essays and drama. He lives in the Blue Mountains.