By the Grace of God
Patrick Toland (University of Oxford , United Kingdom)
One blessing to ask,
late at night, while the starling
rests on chittering lines and all about
is sleet, it is not to be tested
as my father was tested.
He held beauty in hand
as matched as any scallop-shell.
He watched it drift
across the latitudes, until it seemed
to skirl within its own oasis.
Then, my mother’s grin was only
glimpsed as glass is found
along a beach, colour worn down,
an echo of first true purpose.
Yes, when all the past and future
is turned to smoke within
the hearth, and he is listening
to me practising to be a man,
I wish devoutly not to be measured
by him; alone on the long strand,
his eyes cast down for mermaid tears,
the sea’s best understanding.
Patrick Toland is a teacher, Director of a Housing organisation and a mature student on the Oxford Masters of Studies in Writing. He recently had a winning poem, ‘The Naming of Stars’, in the Bodleian Science Library poetry competition 2011.