Northwords Now Issue 39

The FREE literary magazine of the North

The Early Dead

by Ingrid Leonard

Two-year-old twin boys, darting
between tables at a bring-and-buy sale like lambs.
Their mother had dressed them in velvet suits
that matched their hair, dark and close-cropped.
Days later, hers was singed at the temples
along with her skin, she’d fled a burning caravan
with her boys still in.

Jackie Skinner at 60, borrowing a book
from my mother, fresh as the June evening
he’d cycled in on, like a student home
from college, a fleck of summer light
turning out on his bike from Tormiston.  
My Dad saw blue lights as his own father wheezed,
how could any of us know that death comes in threes?

I dreamed of my new-dead Da on the faces of trolls
that jumped out from the roadside, leering;
their ears were gnarly and peach-coloured,
in their mouths, his smile turned mocking.
There was the country crossroads, the clean
stone path to home, but the dial was fixed:
in wake or sleep, I’d be afraid of the ditch.