I never met the man, except in my head,
where his words caressed poetically, what he said.
All I could do (or try) – was copy his style
but never capture his well-trod mile.
The brown ‘Belfast sink’
in the corner of our kitchen.
The cold tap, jutting out and over
sluicing cold water in copious volumes.
Our old wooden shelf – soap rack – held
an iron-griddled leviathan …
Rusted at the corners and underneath,
the heavy beast, mostly protected by ancient used bars
thrown in years to deposit licks of soft creamy soap.
Carbolic once, and later scented, coating coats
over the ribs of iron.
The morning ritual, we washed our hands and face,
cold water stinging.
Quickly, we boys learnt to…
Hold breath with tight shut eyes.
Cupped hands, holding shivers from the tap
splashed over reluctant “oh” cries.
Flush, skin-blushed, faces only to quickly bury
in the ragged rough towel
snatched from the window sill hook.
In growing, so many days, I and my brothers watched…
Dad, stand solid, not a flinch,
soap the cold soaked flannel.
Each inch he’d clean his face, eyes and chin.
Only then, he’d strop his razor,
almost hypnotic, rhythmic slapping sounds.
His blade rang on the leather like an unfinished song,
with his stumpy bristled brush
stabbing first the soap, then his chin.
He’d stare in the black spotted old mirror
his scary open razor…
Sharp in its bland white bone handle.
Scrape and scrape, to rinse in the bowl,
the short ginger whiskers his blade then stole.
In time, I became a man.
Old Dad, well, he had gone to join my Nan.
A white enamelled gas fire contraption,
the Ascot, flamed each morning thereafter
water hot enough to hurt
my scraped bum fluff jowls…
By that same old drain, I think,
Swirled down that same old Belfast sink.
Along with my memories and respect for a master,