Frankie’s dad’s a car mechanic

his nails are always black
his hands scarred
he wears a boiler suit, it was blue once,
an oily rag hangs out of his pocket
for wiping spark plugs or dipsticks
or his hands – Frankie doesn’t think
it’s ever been clean.
Mam raises her eyebrows
but Dad says:
It’s the sign of a working man
a man with a skill
a man not afraid of hard work
of getting his hands dirty
it’s proud dirt.
Mam mutters:
Too proud to wash it off.
Dad can’t stand
any sign of weakness
he’s proud of the fact
he can’t cook
doesn’t wash up.
Housework is for jessies
he says and laughs.
Mam never talks
she’ll smoke tabs
bite her nails
bite her tongue
rather than hold
a long conversation
but she can speak with her eyes:
Stop that
Go Away –
all done with eyebrows
lips and fingers.
If she does say words
they’re broken, half formed things
that she doesn’t trust
and they’ve learnt to ignore.

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