My father and I lean forward
at three in the morning, him swallowing the smoke
like a conjuror (he’s just
switched to filter-tips, mainly for the coupons,
but also for his health. It is the fag-end
of the sixties). It is the first time
he’s watched anything at this hour,
other than sport.
It is the end of magic, in its way:
that we can even see it is somehow
evidence of the impossible, more so than that a grainy figure
drops from the bottom rung
and fluffs his big line so badly that
it sounds like an adage that borders on brilliance.
We listen to Nixon pilfering the credit,
but all eyes are on the images, the thousands of dust-specks
that coalesce upon the screen
and turn into cosmos.
At six, my mother shakes me awake:
I have to catch the Shields bus to Sunderland
by seven. I give her gibberish about astronauts:
Armstrong, Armstrong, Armstrong (it’s
a Northumbrian name), copy Houston,
lunar module. My father snores in the distance,
his lungs struggling to keep up, already
ready to stub him out. He has eighteen years.
At the bus-shelter, a woman with empty bags –
she wants to catch the market early –
looks at the sky, and shakes her head, uncertain:
‘They diven’t want to gan up there,’ she says,
‘They’ll put the light out.’
Click here to read a Guardian article
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