And I had thought only this: thin-lipped
streets taking long slow drags of traffic,
voices pressed up against the hubbub,
stale-beer city rank in evening hair. Instead

I found my father, tangent-eyed, plotting
the passage of the sun across lunchtime
churchyards and hidden squares where roses
unfurled like sails; patiently mastering

the cartography of buses; taking
coffee as though taking leave of dry land;
or slipping below campaniles signed
with Lenten ash; reflecting an anchored

shipshape London in his calm depths. I should
have known from our south-west years: his forbearance
as I ridiculed the cricket commentary,
the way his quiet disapproval stung

like a smack I couldn’t heal, or how he stood
in morning grey and spoke of grateful
privilege as he gave me away. So now
I open my A to Z and names fall

softly from the pages like endearments,
or the disposal of light on water:
Roseberry Avenue, Clerkenwell Green,
St John Street, Goswell Road, Northampton Square.