Portrait of my uncle as a boy

In memory of Brian Bowker, 1955-65

 

He looks like nobody living now,

The lad in knitted sweater, 60s style.

Teeth too big for his boyish mouth,

Slight disastema in the bright smile

For mum and dad. Hair light brown.

Sunny outlook. A perfect child.

 

A record of happy boyhood – the place

He stayed, shut away in a sideboard

Or drawer, without drama – softly erased

From our family's record. A secreted hoard

Of belongings give life back to his face.

His name no more than a whispered word,

 

A vacancy, the hollow centre around which

The circumference of a marriage slowly

Closed – while his parents had to watch

Nephews, grandchildren pass his age, grow

To be parents themselves. However much

They saw of him in them, they didn’t show

 

It, never mentioned his name, but buried

Their grief. Swallowed it. Kept their counsel.

Became the quiet couple a few worried

About, but gave their days to work, chapel

And one another – things they still had –

Seeing the family over Christmas. Travel

 

An escape from the fact of his existence:

How he laughed, how he sang, how he died.

The effect of some playground incident.

He fell, hit his head, and didn’t survive

The night. The prayers of his parents

Unanswered. The power of their faith denied.

 

He looks like nobody living now,

The lad in knitted sweater, 60s style.

Teeth too big for his boyish mouth,

Slight disastema in the bright smile

For mum and dad. Hair light brown.

Sunny outlook. A perfect child.