My father, a builder, loved angular lines,
the feel of a brick in his hand. Mud heavy boots
always stood on our doorstep; wheelbarrows,
hods, and spirit levels cluttered vans
so there was never anywhere to sit.
Things happened across the years:
But always he was my father.
And then he was dying. I searched
for him among the discarded tissues,
the bottles of pills, but he was all wrong,
his skin all wrong:
yellow, like scorched grass.
Afterwards, I tried to make sense of where he’d gone.
For months I sought out possibility in all the cracks
between night and morning.
It seemed he’d gone nowhere.
There’s always a place in Heaven
for God’s children, the vicar reassured.
But what if my father’s colours were different,
or if he wasn’t really all that good?
That autumn I took to walking in the hills.
One day, near the watering hole,
I came across this man, bathing naked
with the sheep and lambs.
I couldn’t tell if he saw me.
For a time I thought he might be Jesus,
just from the simple fall of his hair,
Later, I followed him, walked in the shelter
of his shadow until he disappeared. Then I pressed
my lips to where he’d stood – the warm stone.
Suddenly the sky seemed to fracture.
There it was, an image of my father’s face
illuminated on the side of the cliff. I lay down,
hooked my feet around a rock, traced the contours
of his nose, the scar on his chin, every last inch
of his fading features.
There’s no way to know if I imagined all of this,
like you can imagine strange smells with no origin,
or taste raspberries in a cup of plain tea.
Belinda Rimmer lives in Cheltenham, England. She isn’t a regular churchgoer but prefers to worship privately. She’s had a varied career, including psychiatric nurse, counsellor and creative arts practitioner.