We listen to the news on Radio Four
‘I worked there,’ he says.
‘My first teaching job.’
We sense a way in.
‘You worked in Ireland?’ my daughter asks.
‘Six years.’ He moves around the small kitchen, restless.
We sit at the table drinking tea.
‘So – did you ever teach Seamus Heaney?’
She is bolder. He is far away. I wait.
‘He was too young. I studied at King’s College,’
and here the practised pause, for humour, then
A plate of biscuits appears.
Later, as that sonorous Irish brogue fills the room –
the radio his constant companion, a touch too loud for us –
he returns to the subject.
‘Listen to this,’ he says, pressing the phone button for speaker.
A saved message from last December,
and that same soft accent sends greetings
to a well-remembered teacher.
‘I’ve not heard from him for forty years,’
he wonders. ‘No idea how he got this number.’
He shakes his head. We smile.
The last thing the poet wrote
did not flow from his squat pen
but from the touch of fingertips
(predictive text, I’d guess, switched off)
tapping out in speechless code
encrypted comfort for his wife:
“Don’t be afraid”.