Fran Cassidy writes:

‘This poem below is in remembrance of my beloved dad who’s seventh anniversary was yesterday. It is a memory of being with him when he received his terminal diagnosis ten years ago – an experience that will strike a chord with some I’m sure. There is no need for condolences as it is a long time ago and no longer raw so it’s just offered as a piece of writing. He was a wonderful dad who did all he could for us and he loved us very much despite my wildness as a young fella…’

Hit Him A Punch Franner

The consultant speaks behind a desk
backlit by a shaft of sunlight
his face a murky gloom
and we are nodding and feeling
as if we have been here
for a very long time

He steeples his fingers
and suddenly too late
I have an urge to stop him
because maybe
if it is left unsaid

“I have to tell you that it is inoperable”
the consultant delicately intones
and a solemn silence falls

Dust shimmers in the gleam of sunlight
a bird warbles outside
I wait for my father to respond
but he is looking at the floor

“Do you understand?”
the consultant asks eventually
his voice solicitous

“I think so”
my father says

“We need to process it”
I say

And we stand up
clumsily

“Thank you, thank you”
we say
helplessly

I walk to the door and open it
But it is the wrong door
a broom cupboard
a dead end

“Sorry, Sorry”
we say

“May God bless you”
I hear the consultant whisper

I don’t believe in the God
that my father does
but either way
we say nothing

We walk the length of a corridor
and sit side by side
at a coffee vending machine
looking straight ahead

“I’m not afraid of dying”
my father says
“I’ve had a good life”

“We’re not there yet dad”
I reply

“We’ll have to tell your mum”
he says

In a daze we head for the car

“Will we drive to the sea?”
I ask

“Do” he says

When we are approaching the harbour
I can see the ferries on the horizon
but the car must have been drifting
because I am startled
by a furious beep behind me
so I pull over
and the thwarted overtaking driver
stalls beside me
staring aggressively

He has the cut of an off duty Garda
and I am in the wrong
but instead of acknowledging my transgression
I glare back
because I really am
in no fucking mood
for his shit

“What’s your problem you fucking prick”
I mutter through the glass
as anger and self pity course through me
and I imagine how he will feel
when he realises that he has started a fight
with somebody who will truly relish it
and who’s father is dying of cancer

We’re locked in eye contact now
and my foolishness is dawning on me
but I am not backing down

“Hit him a punch Franner”
my father says
unexpectedly
breaking the spell
and it is so out of character
from a man from whom
I have never heard a violent sentiment
that I turn to him shocked
but his eyes are shining
with something that looks like mirth

“Hit him a punch Franner”
he says again
and we both explode with uncontrollable laughter
the likes of which we have never shared before
because we know that despite our differences
we are peaceable men
not inclined to fighting
and mine is a cathartic slightly mad laughter
with snot and tears
and as the other driver pulls off
confused probably
our laughter eventually subsides
and I wipe my eyes
and turn the car
and we head for home.

Fran Cassidy

Illustration via DesignCorrall

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20 thoughts on “Do Not Go Gentle

  1. Fergalito

    Thanks for sharing that – it’s great, really enjoyed it if that’s the right word and brought back memories of my own Dad and I and a similar hospital situation. A “one-two” poetic punch there Franner ;-)

  2. Daisy Chainsaw

    I loved that. Inopportune humour can be cathartic and will stay in the memory a long time.

  3. Ciarán Cahill

    Hey Fran, (or Frank as I knew you in school). And you were always frank!
    That really touched me.
    My old man died a few years back also from cancer (We only had a few months notice).
    I also had a coming together of minds with Dad in his last weeks despite our differences. In our hatred of Trump.
    In his last few weeks he warned me that what was happening then was the start of a fascist uprising. I’ll never forget. He stated this starting with the words “Mark my words!”. (When Dad ever said this you knew you had to pay attention)
    Sorry for sharing my story, but just trying to share a moment with you when I looked at my old man and we finally agreed on something. (I think I shared some of those wild years with you).
    Do you remember bumping into each other in Vigo (10 years after BC out of the blue?).

    Your pal,

    Ciarán

    1. Fran Cassidy

      Hi Ciaran, great to hear from you and I’m very sorry to hear about your dad. I do remember Vigo – I think I’d been travelling in a tent for several months and was possibly worse for wear – give me a shout on SM or francassidy@gmail.com

      1. Ciarán Cahill

        Will do. I’ll never forget that day when I looked out the window of that cafe in Vigo, saw you looking in the window and said to my boss, “f**k me, I used to sit beside him in school!”.

  4. Fran Cassidy

    Thanks for the kind comments on this and other work Broadsheet.ie has published- shyness and fear of attention seeking generally stops me responding and I don’t think it’s appropriate to respond to criticism once something is out there but I obviously read every comment and very much appreciate the kind ones

  5. Paulus

    Very affecting Fran: I remember a previous insightful piece of yours; Howrya Horse which you read. This piece would also suit being read by you; though it might be a tough assignment.

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