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Planting Parsley with my Father


Resting on the bench broken by winters

I see not my mother’s cool    pale

Rivers-in-moonlight hands


flowing through my hair     breezing

around my ears and face each morning

not the hands that could span an octave


make the shortest pastry     coax

a sick puppy to health     but my father’s

showing me the worth of green in spring.


A robin perches on the warm fork searching

damp earth the way he worked trowels     hands

curved as a ship’s bow     mapped by war


channelled by a force ten     hauling me

from night tides     dream sick     half-drowned

holding me in the air     rescued to a summer’s day


with the smell of trenches     heeling in small plants

the way he mended my dolls     twisted back

their arms into sockets     tucked them in beside me.



Kerry Darbishire is a full-time poet, and a regular Poetry School student. Her work includes A Lift of Wings (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2014), Distance Sweet on my Tongue (IDP 2018) and the biography Kay’s Ark (Handstand Press 2016), for which she was given a Hunter Davies Bursary. She was also a runner-up in the 2013 Mslexia competition.


Carol Ann Duffy says: I admired the language of Kerry Darbishire’s ‘Planting parsley with my father’, and her focus on hands as emblematic of the parents’ personalities. The mother’s competent clean hands are contrasted with the father’s rougher and possibly more loving ones. I loved the tenderness of these images; and the sadness – there’s a sense of bereavement here, as though the poet is the broken doll who can be mended by memory.


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