Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2011

Leeds City Art Gallery

by John Keenan

For my Dad
‘Poking around!’ Holy ginger, honey.
I assure you, I was not ‘poking around’.
I was offering a fond farewell
To my darling Paula Regos –
One, two, three, all zipped away
In this blue body-bag, smelling of paraffin.
And taking a last salute, from these
Ramrod straight soldiers of truth –
Gore, Ginner, Gilman – marched away
Across an empty pavement
To the storeroom’s obscure trenches
By this young fop, your lieutenant.
Taken out, I suppose, to create
Wall space for some puerile installation.
Don’t be frightened, honey, I know
You were just following orders from upstairs
And besides you’re only kids yourselves
Fresh out of college
Like my lovely grandchildren
Who take down my memories
To polish, preserve, re-frame
Because my hanging space is limited,
Rooms suddenly closed for refurbishment.
They’ve made a slide show for me:
‘Grandad, you must remember,
You watched the pilot episode with us,’
But I don’t. Or more puzzling,
They point out who I spoke to
At a west end party in the ‘60s –
How can they know? For Christ’s sake, I was there!
But they’re just yarns, just daubings.
The real stuff’s powder dry.
I’ll hang one last exhibition,
Use every square inch that’s left,
A final novel whose pyrotechnics
Will drive the young guns from the field.

Added: 17.04.2011

Judges' comments on this poem


beautifully narrative - really drew me in


Polished and effective. I really liked the view of the older generation putting up with the younger organising things for them.