Tuesday Poem – The Link Arcade by Craig Cliff


I was not there when my father
acted out to Van Halen’s ‘Jump’
at his work Christmas party
in the Link Arcade.
                      I was probably
asleep at my grandparents’ house
in the bed he slept in as a child.
If not asleep, then reading
a Munch Bunch picture book:
Dick Turnip saving Suzie Celery from
an oncoming greengrocer’s truck.

But my mother told me the story
the next morning, and now,
whenever I hear
                      that song
I think of the scene with my father
climbing onto the handrail of the mezzanine
—part arena rocker, part suicide-to-be—
shaking his non-existent locks and
mouthing: “Go ahead and jump!”
to the shocked faces of his colleagues
who thought he might / the uneasy
conversations after he climbed down
and didn’t sound the slightest bit drunk.

Which he wasn’t. Not my dad.
Apart from a photo from his buck’s night
       (Andrew ‘Undies’ Cliff
        tied to a clothesline
        in singlet and undies,
        a sloshed St. Sebastian)
I can’t remember seeing him drunk.

Indeed, when I was approaching an age where
I might be offered a beer at family barbeques
he sat me down and extolled the virtues
of drinking from a can:
                           “You can
drink as slow as you like, set your own pace,
and no one can tell how much you’ve had.”


Everything from that first stanza
is now defunct, deceased, or rebranded:
my father, Van Halen, the Link Arcade.

Though there was a decade between
his daredevil David Lee Roth and his death,
this reconstructed scene seems to me
—another          decade           later—
the point at which my father wandered off
into the ultramarine glow of the
and if I could just get back inside that arcade
between Main Street and Broadway
he’d meet me there for the conversation
where I say everything I’ve bottled up
and he listens and nods and smiles,
ever-sipping from a can that never empties.

(c) Craig Cliff

The Link Arcade Palmerston North

Craig says

I usually take more liberties, or make up EVERYTHING, in a poem but the Link Arcade is all true. There’s an echo of Kurt Vonnegut in the line about the ‘ultramarine glow of the afterlife’ (Vonnegut referred to the ‘blue tunnel’) as I’d just read his novel ‘Galapagos’ prior to writing the poem.

Craig Cliff is a writer, columnist and public servant based in Wellington, New Zealand. His short story collection, A Man Melting, won Best First Book in the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. He is currently putting the finishing touches on his first novel, which features mannequin makers, strongmen and sub antarctic shipwrecks.View Craig’s website here.

Link Arcade was published in broadsheet/8 November 2011. Thank you Cliff for sharing this poem with us.  For permission to use the Link Arcade photo thanks go to  the Ian Matheson City Archives

Before you return to Tuesday Poem, edited this week by Harvey Molloy, do click here and watch David Lee Roth singing ‘Jump’ with Van Halen.