It began with not the usual phone call.
You know, another loan for the rent deposit on a flat,
Another box of climbing gear and skis to store,
another ask to find that degree certificate…
No, this time just help to fix a ‘sort of chandelier.
‘It’s the weight,’ he said. ‘And it’s for Anna’s room.’
A bit above and beyond your landlady’s call I thought.
But when I saw the light – boulder-heavy as the moon,
rat’s maze wiring diagram – I understood, knew this must be
for someone special. I said, ‘We’ll need to find the joist,
use three-inch screws.’ ‘Not my taste,’ he muttered,
his fingers crimping to hold it straight
while I tightened the rose, his footholds smeared firm
on the wobbly steps, like on the seaside cliffs
we could not keep him away from as a child. From
wild crags and flexible friends to Anna’s DIY ‘v. diff.’!
But seeing the care when he fiddled so gently
to get the thousand glass droppers dangling just right,
it felt like I was watching an act of love.
Switching on, admiring our handiwork, sorry, but that great
smile of his beamed as if a new route bagged, topped out.
Driving back, I got that funny floaty feeling
you have when you know someone might be right. Remember?
And later when he phoned to say Anna says thanks for helping
and that she thinks that it looks just great,
his voice held that lightness, always for us a sign
in him of happiness, a happiness that we all want, wish
for them now. And for a long and peaceful time.
– by John Lancaster. This poem won 3rd prize in the FRP Open Poetry Competition 2016
Born and raised on Biddulph Moor near Stoke-on-Trent, after Sheffield University I worked as a town planner and for housing associations and played jazz and started to write in New Orleans and Birmingham. Since being a second prizewinner in the National Poetry Competition 1979, there have been four collections of poetry: Effects Of War 1986 Giant Steps Press; Split Shift 1990 ( with Geoff Hattersley ) and The Barman 1993, both with Smith/Doorstop; Here In Scotland ( with Milan Knizak ) 2000 Vetus Via, Brno. I held several posts as a writing tutor, am widely published in poetry and literary journals, anthologies and educational course material and have performed work on radio and TV. My most recent published work is on the McLellan Poetry Competition Prizewinners 2016 webpage and six poems in The North ( Issue 57, Jan 2017 ). You can read more about me on Wikipedia: John Lancaster (Writer). I live in Totnes, Devon.