Father Faith

by

Father Faith

Eyes shut tight against sunlight
you get those motes
and Meccano bits
protozoa sinking
in a primal soup gone cold.
Or like birds just hit a window
sliding, cartoon style, down the
red screen of the inner eye.

That’s one version.

Another:
soon as he entered church
sidled into the pew and sat
my father squeezed his eyes tight shut.
I mean really squeezed
and pinched his nose
like he was taking a crap.
But I knew he was squeezing meaning from god
or trying to squeeze god into meaning
like washing through a mangle.

His prayer was brief but intense.
Like the harder he squeezed
the better the odds of being received.
At the same time there was no point banging on –
you got heard the first time or not at all.

I think now of the Little Tailor
in the Brothers Grimm
pretending a piece of cheese
in his fist was a rock
and squeezing water from it
to scare away a giant.

I don’t want to sell him short
or trample his mystery.
But I don’t think he felt any
pressing need for redemption
or banked on anything much
beyond the self-salvation
of sweat and hard yakka.

Still, he suffered for his lack of faith –
all those Sundays squandered
butchering Charles Wesley
when he might have been hosing leaves
from the gutter.

His shy, scrunched up prayers
so far removed from the wrung-dry pieties
of those cat-arsed Christmongers
had something of the kid
awkwardly aping his elders
like the bad pantomime
of me and my sister swearing
and sucking coral tree petals
pretending they were smokes.

In any case my father took
the utilitarian approach
attacked faith with a mattock
just hoved on in like it was
any other piece of work to be got through.
Whether invoicing god
or shouldering a sack of spuds
it was don’t muck round, get stuck in
it’s not fucken flower arranging.

His belief in action was miraculous
his moral fibre spliced tight
to his provider’s spine, the rod
and staff of his Proddy work ethic.
It was just the hoodoo part of the equation
the communing with the spook bit, he lacked.

He once told me going to church
made him ‘feel clean’.
I don’t know what prompted it.
It was uncharacteristic, which is why it sticks.
Expansive, for him,
beyond the tight orbit of the domestic,
touching the mystic.

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