This poem is from Swarf published by Smokestack Books in 2011.
When church preached its sacred mysteries
I always thought of dad’s shoes and his shed.
Polished, light tan, Sunday best shoes -
so unlike his work boots,
sooty toecaps nicked with steel scars
like miniature domes of night sky,
oily with Wren’s Liquid Dubbin.
I didn’t realise, when I snatched the packet
from a Woolworth’s spike and helped to officiate
the Stick-a-sole ceremony, that I, too, was being prepared.
I roughed each leather sole with a wire brush,
resisted the urge to bite the shiny rubber soles
that would coat his tread like liquorice whirls.
I stood back when he hammered segs into heels and toes,
clamoured to have them on my shoes so I could stride,
and strike sparks, though he was at pains to silence his.
When he knelt to pray, I thought the silver crescents
a gift from the patron saint of Blacksmiths.
The strong glue set me tracking the Holy Spirit
to the shelves of the shed: to White Spirit
and Esso Blue, aromatic liquids with volatile halos,
violet Meths the colour of Lent vestments.
Was the Feast of Pentecost done
with sneaky flicks of cigarette lighters?
I sampled 3 in 1 Oil as it suckled my bike chain
and prepared for the grace of sensation,
the sacrament of words. Later, I relished Hopkins:
All things counter, original, spare, strange:
because I trusted his ooze of oil crushed.
Those tan shoes outlasted my churchgoing.