The rowan tree sits as a guardian of a house,
It’s usually associated with “paganism” (not that anything that isn’t Christianity is really a label)
And he says that the berries poison cats.
My dad is called Rowan,
He’s 5”11, has grey eyes the colour of winter skies and told me
He fought in world war two and was an Olympic dressage rider,
But I don’t think he poisons cats.
When I was little, I remember the shape of his hands.
They were well-worn lands with rivers and tidescapes and you’d
Have to learn them if you wanted to know when it was safe to go ashore
– but it was safe, and I fit.
I remember the smell of his coats and the feel of his face against my fingers,
I remember that he smelt like paint,
A smell that recalls to me how our dimples align so perfectly that I can read him in my face,
And if I ever want him close
I can feel him in my smile.
I remember his words,
How he saw his world like a bumble bee with all the colours of a spectrum that you can’t see-
But I’m learning to.
Now he’s in my phone calls,
In the way I hold my gaze with an autonomy of
“I have learnt this the hard way”
He is in my voice,
He is the reason I remember I can stand when my knees are falling quietly in chairs
He is the spectrum –
I learnt his mind like I learnt to untangle necklaces when they were too worn
I learnt his heart when I found my own and realised that it kept
The same rhythm.
Men are usually described in two dimensions,
Strong – visionary – with the tenacity of a china shop bull that they bring out for special occasions.
In this way,
Describing my dad would be like describing the ocean having only ever seen a puddle.
He’s the starvation in Monet’s lines
He is the reason Vincent fought his own ear
He is the fixed gaze of Picasso when they called him schizophrenic when he saw a world that only he could see –
I saw him twice.
Once white eyed and once human.
It was like I saw a window before I saw the stained glass learning that
Those reflections on the walls weren’t
What I thought
But were pigments of a light that passed through filters I had never grown,
And colours I will never have to learn because I have never just survived –
I have never had my heart beaten out of me and had the strength
To find it again, to pick it up when it is slippery and feels like
Glass I have never had to kneel in the dark and use my
Own light to see the walls and find the door and pull the red-hot handle when you have no skin left to pick the lock.
I see him now,
My taxi driver,
I’ll never get another one like it.