These are a series of three sonnets which look at different episodes from my family's life. The first begins with a photograph taken at Milford-on-Sea, in the 1930s, where a mother and a father and their two boys are sitting on the beach, and it imagines what happens later in life.
I Beach Huts, Milford, 1930
These are the high-tide mark in this family’s life;
they huddle together, mugging for the Box-Brownie,
basking in the salt-air and sun between two wars,
the lacuna of a first summer down from school:
a barefoot father in tie and starched collar,
a mother’s equine calm, as two boys shy like foals
around her. One will wake each night in later life
to a friend’s screams from inside a burning tank.
One in middle-age, at his mother’s bedside, will wildly shake
a bell for nurse, then drive in silence to collect the priest.
Today as you pose before the row of huts,
in a silence folded between the wave and the wash,
I think of our life together becoming utterly lost,
and lift this camera like a bible for an oath.
from In The Flesh (Chatto & Windus, 2010), © Adam O’Riordan 2010, used by permission of the author.