Ice

child-falls-skating-7437081

Dad turns up on the doorstep.
Older, in the space of a week,
wearing a hangover and a shirt,
his hairless head, conker-smooth,
hangs like a punished dog.
He looks at us, smiles. I don’t believe it
but wonder if the sad slide of his eye
is him stifling her name,
asking how she is—
whether she’s coping with things that have passed
or never passed between them.
I will only look up, nod,
tell him how she’ll get used to it
after another cigarette:
the crinkled asymmetry of bedsheets,
potato clods white in the pan
and stiffening like joints.
How she unloads half-baskets of laundry
and carries her shadow to bed.

He says we’ll do something fun today
in a sad voice,
clunks the old Volvo into reverse.
We prowl the long road to the pier
and its flashing arcade, swirled sundaes,
trays of salt-crunchy chips.
Hey Jude warbles over the engine.
Slipping small coins from his pocket,
he pays for an hour of glacial time,
two crackling lemonades.
Straws in our favourite colours.
Tying the boots to our troubled feet
we wobble like gangly foals.

Predictable, too quick, my sister flails and slips,
thuds on the glittering rink.
Dad’s face drips like wet ice.

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