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ducks in a row

we paraded behind him

he in a fawn casual jacket
military badge right breast pocket
over a maroon v neck cardigan
even in summer 
dark blue trousers
sharp crease
hands behind back
hair neatly slicked down -
  stiffly upright

me next aged 7
gray flannel shorts
gray slipover
clunky brown lace up shoes
newly scrubbed
  eyes round as saucers

mum last
head down
brown slacks
white blouse
sandy blond
  vacantly beautiful

I would keep turning to look back
at mums place
mum had a place
  last was here place

not wanting to fall back
trying to keep up with long striding dad
occasionally trying to get in front
the sharp knuckled rap
on my head
  from an unyielding god

people looked at us queer
as we marched down the road
all the way to the park
to sit on a bench
dad on one side
me in the middle
mum at the end
  sitting silent

pigeons drew near
seeking breadcrumbs
we had no bread crumbs
when it was time
(dad always decided)
we stood up
then filed back home
  to listen to the radio

dad nearest to the set
nothing to say
me on the floor fidgeting
mum in the kitchen
  fading away

Copyright © Eric Ashford