At five they told me you had become an angel
and you were in heaven looking down.
I never cried, I didn't know how.
I could never understand how in the photographs
that marked your history there were never wings
or halos like those at school at christmas.
And so I put them there.

At sports days the other daddies came
and cheered with pleasure and delight.
I knew that you were there, looking down,
but it wasn't the same, not the same at all.
When I won the egg and spoon they gave
me a medal.
I was five and had won gold.

That night I held it high for you to look at,
to examine with your angel eyes.
I held it there for what seemed
hours to be certain you saw it properly
and could say, in an angel's voice, my son,
my son.
And then I switched off the light.

At ten they told me you had been ill
for a long time and your death was a release
and a relief.
Yet in the photographs it seemed there
was always sunshine, smiles and simplicity,
there was nothing there to indicate disquiet
or disease.

At twenty I tried to die, sixty yellow pills
the doctor gave to take away the sadness
that had come from nowhere and blackened
It didn't work, I came awake days later to
the sound of voices being concerned,
vague murmurs of connections and relations.

They told me then that at forty-nine you
had done the same but with success.
There was nothing that could have been done,
it was so sudden and unexpected,
no-one had seen the obvious.
The angel's wings are broken now, the halo
turned to dust, and at twenty I have learned
enough to cry through pity and through rage.

You never did look down to comfort me,
it had all been lies, lies and a terrible deceit.
I have become you now, a shadow of your memory,
something other than myself.
I have removed each picture from its frame
to mend the image I had made of you
all those years and years and years.

In time, they said, I would heal and understand.
Time, the one thing that for a life has done
nothing but harm, one young child fatherless
who became preoccupied, never any sight
or sound of angels' wings to clarify the tears
that come now like a habit that will vanquish
and destroy.

John Cornwall

If you've any comments on his poems, John Cornwall will be glad to hear from you.

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