BooksNovember 11, 2016

The Friday poem: ‘Write about your father’s father’ by Amanda Kennedy


New verse by writer Amanda Kennedy.


Write about your father’s father 

At school, the task today is

write about your father’s father.

You find it slightly hard to breathe as people at your table tell their stories

I mean, if you have ever read School Journals,

You will know that grandads aren’t supposed to be half bad


Start with a picture, says the teacher, tapping on your page

But Miss, I never met my father’s dad, you whisper to her with dismay

You must know something about him, teacher says

….You do. You hold your pencil loosely, though,

As if it were a little like a mast, a ship at sail in the surging sea

A way of getting far away

A way of getting free, from

Tell us what you know about your father’s father, says the teacher, marching past.

But Miss –

But nothing! Hurry up. You’re going to finish last. So draw the picture first, and make it fast.


You fill your sails with air and start to draw.


I’m telling, says the girl who sits next door a moment later when she looks across

So as the teacher comes your way, you try to cover up your page

but teacher sees, and teacher says

What’s this picture of? Is that your mum and dad?


You knew already that you’d drawn something bad,

but can’t just say out loud that that IS grandad,

on your Aunty Jane,

when she was just your age,

so you try to frame it to her like it’s just a game

That’s a little balloon in the bed, and that’s my grandad, on top

letting all the air leak out of her head!


But look at teacher’s face, gone all dark grey like thunder

And so you whisper, I told you I don’t know him.

The other kids, they try to get a look as teacher tears a page out of your book

You drop your pencil on the floor

The surging sea has become a roar

And all the air has gone out of your sails.


When Dad hangs up the phone that night,

He turns around and slowly says, That was Teacher and she told me what you did today.

Your voice and hands start shaking but you do try to explain:

I told her I can’t draw my grandad right –

But Dad, he grabs your hand and holds it tight

Lets out a great big silence

It grows across the table til you want to crawl inside it,

curl up in a ball


And finally he says,


My girl, you

drew him perfectly.

That’s your father’s father

from his grave


letting the air

out of us all


The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books, recently named 2020 International Book Store of the Year, London Book Fair, and Creative New Zealand. Visit Unity Books Wellington or Unity Books Auckland online stores today. 

Image: Tina Tiller

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