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Tracy Ryan

Cambridge considered as
the Cocos & Keeling Islands

for John Forbes


The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

— Roethke, ‘My Papa’s Waltz’

Where you found your perfect Scandinavian
      fivestar dreamroom, only the bed
      was inches short, & hard as the bed of a monk —
no place was a place to get straight in —
      & the mini-bar had to be smuggled in
      to ease your retreat, & the hosts themselves
teetotal, if this was your tropical
      island you were stuck with me like a blank
      book, where you wanted talk
& got my silence, dumbfounded I
      took your pain regardless,
      packed as a squash ball in a closed space.
‘Trace’, you said, but the sentences
      never went where you intended, they
      rebounded, & I was
a little girl again, watching the red
      Celtic lines of my father’s
      harried brow & neck, I am not big enough
to handle this, if I stay
      long enough, mute witness, perhaps
      it will pass. Mid-tears
you laughed & apologised, asked
      if I knew that Hopkins wrote those hymns
      we both grew up on.



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