When it isn’t yours, that is. This poem explores the effects of death worse than pain and sorrow.
“Your father’s gone,” my bald headmaster said.
His shiny dome and brown tobacco jar
splintered at once in tears. It wasn’t grief.
I cried for knowledge which was bitterer
than any grief. For there and then I knew
that grief has uses – that a father dead
could bind the bully’s fist a week or two;
and then I cried for shame, then for relief.
I was a month past ten when I learnt this:
I still remember how the noise was stilled
in school-assembly when my grief came in.
Some goldfish in a bowl quietly sculled
around their shining person on its shell.
The were indifferent. All the other eyes
were turned towards me. Somewhere in myself
Pride, like a goldfish, flashed a sudden fin.