Started 2000, finished 2019 For W. C. My daddy was Irish and famous – ‘Well, sort of Irish and sort of famous’, he said – and told the truth. He loved and he was loved, and was a joker, and in his youth he’d passed the eleven-plus with such high marks they’d sent him to private school (plush lawns, straw hats) but then he’d felt ‘oppressed by the Oxbridge conveyor’ so that was that for years, while he wrote in garrets and took ‘real jobs’: porter on Jersey, bank clerk. He explored the world, and then read English up at Leicester, then at Oxford, and won awards, and ‘found’ he was getting in print, but still worked summers at Leicester station goods-yard. ‘Am I as bright as you, Daddy?’ ‘Probably not’. So it was hard not to pine for all he represented on access visits, and not to be beguiled, but I knew I wasn’t as special, that I was an anxious child who liked to play with marbles on his own, while mum cooked, watched EastEnders, tidied up. Who teachers said should ‘come out of his shell’. Who had a pup and made her his best friend, and got in trouble for daydreaming, and caused too much of a fuss about his distant dad. Who scrapped. Who failed the eleven-plus and went to a comprehensive where he learned never to try too hard. Who knew his place was in the middle. Who watched his lurch-drunk father jab at the face of a steadfast woman patently too good to stay with him. (She didn’t.) Who wouldn’t become a poet and scholar too, or much at all: he was too dumb. Who later found the custody hearing documents while helping his mother clear her musty attic: the affidavits of all his dad’s ex-lovers, each emphatic that I’m sure the child’s interests are best served by being kept from this abusive man, a drunk who bullied and hit me; his arrest statement from when my Nan lost her front teeth (I hadn’t been told the reason). Until then, I’d seen one short, partial report to which my father had clung. Mum had buried most retorts, and Nan was now in her functional little urn. And I was trying to be like him – a bit, in fewer and fewer ways – and started a poem and this is it. Rory Waterman was born in Ireland in 1981, and lives in Nottingham, England, where he works at Nottingham Trent University. His first collection of poetry, Tonight the Summer's Over (Carcanet, 2013), was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Prize. His second, Sarajevo Roses (Carcanet, 2017), was shortlisted for the Ledbury Forte Prize for second collections. This poem is from his third collection, Sweet Nothings (Carcanet, 2020), published on May 28.