Once, Dad took us to see where he worked shifts.
(nights, eight to four, four to mid)
With stretched necks and straight backs,
we peered out of our Datsun Cherry
to see a strange city,
sitting on Immingham Docks.
We saw how Dad held the key to secret portals
that let him pass through gate-houses
(where prostitutes drank milky tea,
while waiting for the ships to dock)
driving us past frozen robots
whose gangly arms
stretched out over scratched earth.
Here, he spoke a language foreign to his tongue.
(knackered, bloody, damn)
Another time, he brought home
a man-made meteorite:an other-worldly ball
he let us hold.
It was an aberration:
a puzzle for him to solve.
(filtering chemistry through poetry)
‘Where did it come from?’ I asked,
turning it round and round.
Dad held out his hand to me
and I placed it on his palm.
‘The Granulation Plant is making them,’ he said,
‘but I can’t work out why.’
That night, shadows of granulation plants
rose from the estuary
and marched towards his factory.
Back in the lab, my dad lit bunsen burners,
juggled bubbling test tubes,
muttered magical incantations:
filtration, titration, anti-granulation.
He made his plan.
Dripping wet, they reached the gate-house
and still they marched on.
I woke, wide eyed, and panicky
to the smell of toast and coffee.
I held my breath until…
…I heard him:home from his shift,
chatting away excitedly
about how he solved the mystery –
jubilant in his victory.
I let the breath whistle from my lungs.
Of course he’d won.
Illustration by Emily Sandford