The Tuesday Poem – ‘To my father’ by Charles Causley

TO MY FATHER, by Charles Causley

‘It was the First War brought your father down,’

My aunts would say. ‘Nobody in our clan

Fell foul of that t.b. Lungs clear and strong

As Trusham church bell, every single one.’

My soldier-father, Devon hill-village boy,

The Doctor’s sometime gardener and groom

Hunches before me on a kitchen chair,

Possessed by fearful coughing. Beats the floor

With his ash-stick, curses his lack of luck.

At seven, this was the last I saw of him:

A thin and bony man (as I am now),

Long-faced, large-eyed, struggling to speak to me.

I see him on his allotment, leaning on

A spade to catch his breath. He takes me to

The fair, the Plymouth pantomime, the point-

To-point. My mother tells me of how proud

He was when I was five years old and read

The news to him out of the paper. Now,

Seventy years on, he strolls into my dreams:
Immaculate young countryman, his mouth

Twitching with laughter. Always walks ahead

Of me, and I can never catch him up.

I want to take him to the Derby, buy

The wheelbarrow he longed for as a boy.

I want to read out loud to him again.

I speak his name. He never seems to hear.

I know that one day he must stop and turn

His face to me. Wait for me, father. Wait.

(Reproduced by kind permission of the poet’s literary agents, David Higham Associates)

I love this poem of Causley’s and it reminds me of what a great poet he was. It seems he’s never had the recognition he deserved – perhaps because he wrote poetry for children as well as for adults, or perhaps because his work uses such simple forms and words.  Someone said of him that he always stood outside poetic fashion – and maybe that was another reason he’s been neglected. (His work’s still in print with Macmillan, though – both the Collected Poems 1951 – 1997, and his collected children’s poems – so maybe not neglected: just not fully acknowledged.)

This poem expresses such clear eyed memories, such tenderness and longing, and such a visionary ending. I hope it might make those less familiar with his work seek him out.

And do have a look at other Tuesday Poems, when you have a moment.

5 Responses to “The Tuesday Poem – ‘To my father’ by Charles Causley”

  1. mary mccallum Says:

    Belinda – how well this poem sits with the hub poem on Tuesday Poem this week, Dad Aubade. A much more modern, simpler version … but nevertheless. And Helen Lowe’s Donne poem echoes this one too. I love how the Tuesday Poems speak to each other. Thank you for this one and for your marvellous commentary.

  2. admin Says:

    Thanks so much for your comment, Mary. It’s hard to believe that I had actually forgotten we’d just had Fathers’ Day when I chose this poem!

  3. Kathleen Jones Says:

    Thanks so much for posting this. I think Charles Causley is one of the most underrated poets of the 20th century!

  4. admin Says:

    Me too! His range is astonishing, and he always offers some kind of shining insight to illuminate the day, doesn’t he?

  5. Frances Thomas Says:

    Such a moving poem – and those last two lines are heartbreaking. Thank you for posting this

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