Three poems from Rory Waterman

Shrine for a Young Soldier, Castle Drogo

Easy to pick out, Gioconda-faced:
here he crouches in Oxford sepia-blue;
here in the Eton Boys’ XI;
here in a family portrait, in casuals;

here in straitening khaki, moustached like a man,
clutching a bayonet proudly: Major Drewe.
‘With the Angels in Heaven’.

The day the letter arrived from the Front
the butler stood silent behind the door,
the maids waited, eyes blank, and prayed for their masters
in their cluttered living room, newspapers spread with the War.

The golden child rancid in mud
and horror brought home like a catkill left
on a worn-through scullery floor.

First published in Agenda, 44:4, 2009

from Growing Pains


‘…discord which has ripped
you from your father, stripped
away known places, play and friends…’
    – Andrew Waterman, ‘For My Son’

So I grew up a ‘case’, in Lincolnshire,
‘abducted’, as you’d have it, just turned two,
when ‘she revoked [my] birthright’/ brought me here.
This is my tale of ‘access times’ with you:

Daddy came each month. On Saturday
the social worker’s car would take me down
to the Lindum Guesthouse, seven miles away
in Lincoln, then we’d hug and walk around

the shops, and up the hill to Castle Square –
a gape-mouthed gatehouse one way, and the other
the honeyed Minster penetrating air.
And, in another world, my loving mother.

For this was Daddy’s place. You taught me how
the Normans built those arches, how that well
gave Romans all their water from the brow
of this glacial hill, beneath which Celts

came sliding in small boats to Brayford Pool,
where Vikings later came to overhaul
and settled with the natives. At my school
we hadn’t ‘done’ this yet, us boys and girls

all learning to fit in, and here I stood
in my home town and breaking it apart
with Irish Daddy, near to whom I slept.
Then Sunday would arrive and I’d depart

full of stories, tears, cake, love, resentment,
our candle burning brightly to a stub
in Lincoln Minster, seven miles away,
as I got home and you got to the pub.

A swift one for your long hard journey home.
And though I didn’t love one of you more
the cries and bed-time hugs with Mum at home
were urgent, but it’s you whom I cried for.

And that was most of it. Remember how
I’d speak into the Dictaphone? ‘Explain’
my feelings on where I’d ‘like to live now’,
in a town I’d only heard of, called Coleraine,

whilst sitting in the Lindum, downing sweets?
At two I’d not grown used to anywhere.
By five the squat stone houses, leafy streets
of Dunston, rural Lincolnshire was where

my life was, if for better or for worse.
The court heard our recording and agreed.
And Lincoln was a blessing and a curse,
where Daddy lived each month, and lived with me.

First published in Able Muse, summer 2010

A Suicide

Away. And for a moment as you tipped,
traversed the awful point of no return
and yelled, stretch-torsoed in the faraway,

you faced us. Eyes unseeing mirrored mine:
I thought of me; the you in me, in us;
and all the things you’d given us to say.

First published in PN Review 183, 2008

Rory Waterman was born in Belfast in 1981, but grew up mostly in Lincolnshire. A selection of his poems will appear in New Poetries V (Carcanet, 2011) and he is working towards a first collection. He is completing a PhD at the University of Leicester, and co-edits the poetry and arts magazine New Walk.

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