My Uncle

January 16, 2011

My uncle is not a four wheel drive

with leather seats and brand new chase.

My uncle is not the glossy cover of

Hello, Time Out or Heat.
My uncle is not
a metrosexual pair of skinny jeans

and not, most definitely

a potential applicant for Dancing on Ice

even though
he is more limber

than a big cat

that has become adept

at roller skating. My uncle

built his own bike so he could cycle

23 miles to work,
there and back, every day –
up at 6, back at 7.30

My uncle got himself a law degree

and handled his own divorce

My uncle got himself a history degree

so he could understand

the way our relatives were moved

eating grass on trains in Germany.
My uncle has a degree in philosophy

and is philosophical about the state of

class structure and what can you do

about the selfish gene. My uncle

is the kindest man I’ve ever met

but despite his warmth

has also in the past

been colder than a bailiff’s greeting

My uncle is not an empty hand or

turned away body

My uncle is half Hungarian

and speaks it fluently

My uncle has a lover from Nigeria 

who he has seen clandestinely

for more than 15 years

and my uncle meditates

quietly in conservatories

cross legged on floors

his own in Kilburn

my parents’, in their bungalow

I watched him at Christmas

when he wasn’t looking
slippers by the camp bed
glasses by the window.

My uncle, lends money

to friends and relatives

and never makes a fuss

My uncle was raised by Carmelite nuns

and to this day is scathing

about their kind of Catholicism. Listen

you’ve got to understand

that 2 plus 2 is 4

and 36 x 110 is 3960
but this does not equal

all of the books in my uncle’s library

in which he works, quietly

diligently, as head librarian

and he has probably read

every single one

My uncle is not a copy of the

Times Literary Supplement

but he digests it, carefully

every month

My uncle can make an intelligent remark

about the state of British Art

or neo-liberalism

or anything -
I’ve got to tell you:

my uncle fed his dying dog chicken

that he boiled each day

on the stove in his kitchen

even though he was and is a vegetarian

but once, when my cousin was 12

didn’t talk to her or her mum for 2 weeks

just because they’d had an argument

even though my cousin cried

and her mother begged him

please

My uncle is not unscathed

or perfected in the art

of always doing the right thing

My uncle is the kindest man I’ve ever met

but if you saw him in the street

you wouldn’t know him.

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