My father left me a boat:
The old red dinghy, slab-sided,
paint peeling, barely afloat.
Summers in the harbour
we sat, three small children
across the stern, one in the bow.
Older, we swam from bay to bay
in deep water, knowing
ourselves to be safe, my father
alongside in the dinghy, rowing.
My father left me a boat.
Sometimes when I falter,
reach for solid ground,
I think I hear his voice -
"Nearly there. Keep going!"
My father nearby
in his coffin boat, rowing,
- Catherine Fitchett
In the early twentieth century, and before that, it was common in wills for specific objects to be listed and bequeathed - a famous example being Shakespeare's second best bed which he left to his wife, Anne Hathaway. This poem was written prompted by an exercise in which we were to imagine something that might have been left to us. In fact, the family dinghy had rotted away and been dumped long before my father died, but the prompt allowed me another (much more concise) way to explore material that I had long ago attempted, and failed, to explore poetically.
"The Will" is included in the 2014 New Zealand Poetry Society Anthology "Take Back Our Sky" which launched recently.
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