My little brother is an old man now,

But I remember him smiling in the high chair

with his blue eyes, and the silken sheen of his hair,

Brighter than a ginger cat, orange as a marigold in the border.

I remember his plump behind

When he squatted down in his rompers

(lavender gingham they were)

To look at a snail.

When he started school his first report said

“A nice, bouncing boy” – that all?! –

But later a parent with a Jewish name

Gave him a fountain pen after some secret kindness

That he would never speak about.

And so he grew up to be a student.

He followed his vocation as a parish priest.

A lady in a power hat proving too much for him,

Pushed him sideways into the heart of his calling.

As a hospital chaplain he held the hand of the dying,

“I got there, didn’t I?”

People have always been around him,

Wife and family, grandchildren, singers, bell ringers,

Who have their memories too,

But now only I am left

Who remembers the snail.

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