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Tony Harrison
Poem nominated by


The image about hands and hand holding…my father's hands were enormous compared to mine. One of the things I did as a child was rub cream into his hands in a family where there wasn't much physical contact. It was probably the most intimate thing I did with my Dad.


James Cagney was the one up both our streets.

His was the only art we ever shared.

A gangster film and choc ice were the treats
that showed about as much love as he dared.
He’d be my own age now in ’49!

The hand that glinted with the ring he wore,

his father’s, tipped the cold bar into mine

just as the organist dropped through the floor.
He’s on the platform lowered out of sight 

to organ music, this time on looped tape,

into a furnace with a blinding light 

where only his father’s ring will keep its shape.
I wear it now to Cagney’s on my own

And sense my father’s hands cupped round my treat
– they feel as though they’ve been chilled to the bone

from holding my ice cream all through White Heat.