John by Mike Jenkins

The sting of the fumes
and petrol had bloodshot his eyes
so they looked like an alcoholic’s.

‘Sir’ was a word he’d abolished.
He only stooped to tend a car.
He saw bosses come and go
with fashions. In all weathers
he took his time.

His cap at a witty angle,
breaktimes we’d crouch together
secret sharers of the showroom.
Our ideas travelled further
than any of those pampered
cars could ever go.

His Valleys voice rising
to mountain-air elation –
falling to chatty river-flow.
He spoke of the Depression:
How he’d trudged on blistering feet
grey miles, a mirage of bread
becoming real ahead of him.

Some months after I’d left,
an old workmate, cool as coins,
told me of his fatal heart-attack.
A chosen son, I walked
at his own funeral pace
from the garage towards
a rusting distance I’d never attain.

by Mike Jenkins
from Invisible Times

Additional information: Mike Jenkins (born 1953) is a Welsh poet, story writer and novelist writing in English. He taught English at Radyr Comprehensive School in Cardiff for nearly a decade and Penydre High School, Gurnos, Merthyr Tydfil, for some two decades before that. At the end of the 2008–2009 academic year Jenkins took voluntary redundancy. He now writes full-time, capitalising on experiences gleaned from former pupils. He continues to live in Merthyr Tydfil, and has done so for over 30 years. He is also the father of former Plaid Cymru politician Bethan Sayed (née Jenkins) and journalist Ciaran Jenkins.


Meet The Family by R. S. Thomas

John One takes his place at the table,

He is the first part of the fable;

His eyes are dry as a dead leaf.

Look on him and learn grief.


John Two stands in the door

Dumb;  you have seen that face before

Leaning out of the dark past,

Tortured in thought’s bitter blast.


John Three is still outside

Drooling where the daylight died

On the wet stones; his hands are crossed

In mourning for a playmate lost.


John All and his lean wife,

Whose forced complicity gave life

To each loathed foetus, stare from the wall,

Dead not absent. The night falls.


by R. S. Thomas

from Poetry for Supper (1958)