Our father taught us kindness,
bringing home speechless men
to sit watchfully at the table,
their wild hair and swollen fingers
mysterious on the white damask,
staring as our father gestured
with the family silver, leaning in
towards the gutteral replies as if the sounds were
decipherable. These men did not fit.
We saw their struggle with cutlery,
their giant boots removed, sour feet on our Turkey
rug, flickering blue bright eyes at our
helpless brother waving his hands in his
wooden high chair. I was the eldest, always
the chosen one to sit beside each grey man,
my father gracious, benevolent,
praying O Lord, that this guest will have
sustenance at our table and God willing,
good fortune on the road.
Then my mother packed
sandwiches in waxed paper, gave them
to us to carry to the front door, my father
solemn, we’ll see you again now,
We in silent astonishment,
watching the great man, like a bear,
retrieve the stick from the porch,
a bundle of something, setting off
back again down the drive, never waving,
not looking back, not a guest, but he could
have been an angel, past the cedar trees and out
on the road to London, my father sighing, he’ll be back
next year, you’ll see, he’s on the road again.
My mother scouring his plate, frowning her
furrowed look, why must you bring
them here, why not the Salvation Army?
And my father, looking out down the
road to London where the traffic slowly passed,
merely saying, but we have been commanded.
Sally St Clair‘s stories appeared in Panurge &Stand. Poems have been variously commended, shortlisted or placed in competitions and have appeared in Envoi, The Frogmore Papers as well as Beautiful Dragons & Raving Beauties anthologies. A short story is being published in Postbox, Spring 2022.