index of first lines
:: sleep has wrapped you ::
:: you munch the sponge, grinning ::
:: Elisabeth writes over the page ::
:: this will forever remind you ::

sleep has wrapped you
and delicately
your ankles crossed
a hand to your stomach
a hand on your shoulder
your head in the crook
between mother and pillow

let’s be honest
you are an innocent integrity
already self-formed
and packed to the brim
with clarity
and determination
I can only watch
kiss and hug too much
tickle and grin too much
and thank kismet
for two wonderful children

20 June 1990, 2.45am

you munch the sponge, grinning
while I chide you
for drinking the bath-water
little chocolate-maniac
not two years old

you say “mmmm”
when you kiss,
are not sure
what to do with your lips,
perched on the window-sill
“bye bye”
to strangers
passing in their cars

call dogs
spoken slowly
repeat “raining”
pointing at the window
pointing to your feet
pointing to your mouth
sit in the bath
surreptitiously supping bath-water
from an empty razor-blade case
happy to eat the back of your chair,
the damping on the vacuum cleaner,
a bath sponge,
anything foam
or anything chocolate
when you are pregnant
you will eat sponges
how many years hence?

roll over in bed
kicking your way
out of the duvet
feet up on your mum
head against my hip bone
hard-headed girl
and not yet two years old

you sleep
dreaming of fields of sponges
oceans of bath-water
and hot and cold
running chocolate

for Lizy, 12 June 1990, 3.10 am

Elisabeth writes over the page
delicately relieved me of the pen
after I wrote
“whoever I am”
(at least, for once,
not “whomsoever”)

whoever I am
whomsoever I am
I will be your father
and you will run
chubby legs spread
egg yolk in your silk fine hair
grubby vest
your arms all set to embrace
you will run over
the pink carpet
along the hall
and I will hold you
whoever I am

and at three in the morning
you will roll over
and take the pen
and with a few shakes
say more
than ever I can
whoever I am

11 June 1990, 1.30am

this will forever remind you
your father
that foolish man who embarrasses you
at every possible turn
full of tedious reasoning
and plummy phrasing

your blue face
rubber Buddha mask
I was the first to see
when you came into the light
motionless lifeless
the mask of an aquatic creature
beached in this alien world

this is not the first of five hundred songs
that my mind will strain to sing
these are not the first poor stitches
in a frail patchwork of poetry
that my mind will melt to etch
on the tapestry of being
not the first amazement
that I will express at your life

your father
pickled in his ego
doting became a dotard
went soft

as you slid into life
crushed out, squeezed into life
as you slid
I saw the pain of the world
and all my clever metaphor
failed me for an instant
I was naked at your nakedness
robbed of my elegant comparison
by this unparallel event

I am told that fathers develop
a mystic communion
through the fact of fatherhood
none of us
can believe
that anyone has experienced
this intesity
for once I travelled
mistaking completely my destination
none of my elaborate initiations
into metaphysics could give life
the life you gave to the world

you seem to me a creature
a small animal
void minded
devoid of intellect
I triumph with your tiny shudderings
and tremblings
where others hear whingeing
hear music
watch your rolling eyes
unable to see if you see anything at all
and I halt at the brink of description
unable to describe

for Ben, 4 May 1985