Carole Coates



He can't read it and he can read it
he can read bits of it anyhow but it's hard
so his grandpa reads it every evening

and they discuss the Mississippi River
big and brown and rolling like the Humber
although grandpa says he thinks it must be wider

sometimes he tries to read it by himself
because he likes Huck Finn who has a father
who isn't there either but there's a footprint

where someone has stood for a long time
but this is as far as his grandpa has read
so he's cheating and peeping ahead in the book

here's a picture Huck is opening the door
and a man is drinking from a bottle and glaring
his toes are showing through his boots

the man's dirty and glaring WHO IS HE?
he thinks he knows who the man is -
it's tea-time but nobody's here

he carries on reading skipping and puzzling
and it is Huck's father - pap he calls him
he's crept in the house and nobody knows

....where his face showed; it was white; not like another man's white, but a white to make a body sick, a white to make a body's flesh crawl a tree-toad white, a fish-belly white......

he slams the book shut and bolts from the room
hides by the stove in the kitchen peers under the table
it's getting darker but nobody's here

now footsteps coming nearer and soft mutterings
a yell of terror from the stove and his mother screams
Don't do that You could have killed me

but it's all right now and later his grandpa reads
about Huck's father- yes, he knew he was horrible
pap wants his money and keeps him prisoner

At night there's a huge white toad which sits
in the damson tree and peers through his window

from Jacob, 2016, Shoestring Press
First prize in the Nottingham Open Poetry Competition 2011.
Assent 65/2 2012

© 2011 Carole Coates

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Last updated 20 June 2016