The Father Field

by Joanne Key

Grown from our cuttings and darkstuff.
Believe me when I say – it was child’s play,
starting them off on blotting paper,
a drop of whisky here, a few tears there,
before potting them on in soil
rich in creosote and engine oil,
staking them with the old paint sticks.

Like grandfather before us we filled
the greenhouse with blood and bone,
smoke from our roll-ups, nailed
the horseshoe that bore his name
above the door. Day and night we prayed
and tended them, hoping a good one
would take if we clipped away the lanky
stragglers, any root that took like a fist,
any shoot that grew six fingers.

Land of our fathers. It’s all out of hand.
They dig themselves out of the shit, and stand
like starecrows watching the house.
Coughing-up loose strife, worm-eyed,
spilling their guts and lousy with black fly,
they pick our prize mushrooms,
and wear them as flat caps, ransack
the outbuildings looking for paraquat.

Come summer, the place is overrun
with the buggers – caned
and strange-natured men, swaying
outside the kitchen window.
Unholy tangle of big lugs and runners,
they’ve squeezed the life
out of our ivy, choked poor rose.
Climbers, they’re all over the house now,
when we hold our breath we can hear them
inching a way towards the dark room
where we grow our own children.