Mark O’Flynn – The Hanky Drawer

Flynn LE P&W Humour June 2024

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, Special Edition on Humour June 2024.

The Hanky Drawer, poem by Mark O’Flynn.

The Hanky Drawer

Going through my father’s precious debris
I came across a shared drawer.
In it, beneath handkerchiefs

and doilies, I found a small cardboard box
of great, withered age. In this, under a greasy rag
I discovered what I thought were triple A batteries

but on closer inspection turned out to be
DETONATORS – with the proviso – DANGER.
My father was an engineer

wasn’t there a story about some sweaty
gelignite found in a farmer’s shed
buried under blackberry twenty years ago?

And didn’t he once blow up tree stumps
to clear the ground to grow jojoba beans?
But why here in the handkerchief drawer?

where at any time in the last two decades
they might have blown my mother’s
fingers off while reaching for a hanky.

So I took them to the cops.
I could have thrown them in the fire, or held
them in a vice and hit them with a shovel

but, no, I was acting responsibly,
unlike some.
When I placed them on the desk and explained

what they were, both policemen visibly
stiffened. Glanced
at each other, edging crabwise towards the door.

One said: ‘You shouldn’t have brought them in here.’
I asked, rhetorically, ‘Do you want me to take
them back out?’ ‘No,’ he cried, ‘don’t touch them!’

DANGER – DETONATORS sat between us on the desk.
Palpably worried they asked if my father
kept any other weapons at home.

My father – weapons? No, he was an engineer.
You couldn’t move a metre in his house without
being able to put your hand on a screwdriver.

As executor of the estate I was civility itself,
all apologies and mea culpas,
more than glad to hand the problem over.

I went back outside to the cool, autumn sunshine,
a car full of bags of rubbish, once my
father’s fleeting things, now destined for the tip.

Tomorrow the sock drawer.

© Mark O’Flynn

Mark O’Flynn works across various forms and has published poetry and fiction. He has published several collections of poetry as well as three novels.