The First Farewell

1 December 2013

Pokhara 1978

Twenty-eight years
since the last goodbye
he brings me long blacks
tells me stories
from before my time.

One day I’ll document
this pre-history
let lines leak from my pen
let him explain the now
through the then
take his word for it
and take it as read.

Today I only listen.
I’ll say it’s only words
but even he
knows it’s words I value more
than anything.

A story ends with tears
in our eyes
I nod, of course
there’s always more:

the dusty unmarked road
of my family’s village
the bright rattling bus
the blonde woman
in jandals and cheap
cotton clothes, drifting
a world away from love.

There’s the man
who will become
my grandfather
in his favourite hat
– I imagine –
calculated steps
recognising gravity
in departures.

He wasn’t so old back then
walks his son home
with a comforting arm
as the bus carries on
mutters Babu
to grieving hands.

The story ends
in tears
just the first few drops
in a lifetime
of constant goodbyes.

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