On Father’s Day

On Father’s Day he used to pretend he wasn’t bothered but mum told us he used to smile to himself and tell her he loved us. Later we found every card we ever sent him in a plastic bag inside a box inside another plastic bag. We think they were in year order.

Breathe, he said below his breath

He stood three steps down from the road crossing and two in towards the shop window the back of his head was reflected in. Breathe, he said below his breath. Breathe. He used his thin hands as a brown paper bag and began to feel better. His vision slowed its spinning and he could almost focus on the police van parked opposite. Hello John, said the voice again. Not bad, he said, and yourself? But I didn’t ask you, said the voice. I just said hello.

That’s more than I’m used to.

That’s as may be.

Much more.

I must be going.

Please don’t go, he said below his breath. Please. He unbuttoned his coat as if he had arrived home.

Xylella

The olive trees are dying and we must burn them, dry twigs, snapped branches, roots.

In the late-morning sun and the silence of the old men’s tears, the sound of axes. Hard hands are torn. Children watch from the shade, sparrows in the thorny oak.

For centuries the trees have given and now it seems an end. But we, green-hearted, hopeful, we shall plant again and our grandchildren shall harvest.