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Image by Mel


the madrigal, volume iii.v

Blue Grandad

by niall m. oliver

a version was previously published in 'Dodging The Rain' in May 2020

We called him Blue Grandad, not because his eyes were
milky blue like larimars, or because he always wore blue
overalls, but because he only ever drove blue cars. He said
the colour blue, reminded him of the ocean where he’d sailed
for months at a time as an engineer on merchant navy ships. I
was only there in case we got a flat wheel
, was his favourite
joke. When he wasn’t making us laugh, he was reciting the
poems he’d written in the quiet of his dimly lit bunk.

Dipping his pen into the water’s black well, he’d tell of the
brightest stars he’d ever seen; stars which the sky would
surrender to the sea, only for them to taunt the waves by
rising again. There was a poem about a pâtissier from
Aquitaine who could plait quicker than he could tie his boots,
and one about a fortune teller who wore a trail of
jewels across the smooth golden sands of her belly. A lucky
, he claimed was her prediction, prompting a familiar eye
roll from Granny, to which he’d reply with a wink. He also
wrote about home and the things he missed; cutting turf at
Mackle’s bog, the walk to chapel on Sundays, the funeral of
his youngest brother.

One time when reading me a poem about fishing for eels at
dawn in Lough Neagh, he stopped midway, and looked up
beyond me, as if he’d heard something in the distance. I
watched his lips silently shape a word. Then he leaned in, and
beckoned me over with his hand, and whispered, I was
ordered up one night, you know, up on deck, to give the men
a hand. There was trouble. I’d fired a gun before, but
he leaned even closer, the bows of our faces almost touching.
I maybe killed a man or two that night.

And for once, silence filled the space between us, like a long
em dash. And from each end of it, we clung, drifting there
together for what seemed a nautical mile, until finally, with a
sparkle of larimar and a wink of an eye, it broke. Then he
straightened himself, and after a long intake of breath, cast us
off again into the early morning mist.

Niall M Oliver lives in Ireland, and is the author of ‘My Boss’ by Hedgehog Poetry. His poems have featured in Acumen, Atrium, The Honest Ulsterman, Fly On The Wall Press, Ink Sweat & Tears and others.

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