Written during my late daughter’s lifetime :
Shall we arise late this next Sunday morning
In the time-honoured way parents do?
Shall we lie snug and warm in our big double bed
Half-listening the sound of your hesitant tread
And the peep round the door of your golden-curled head
Before clambering in with us too?
Shall we go down to egg-dipped toast soldiers
Your small hand in mine down the stairs?
To a kitchen alive with your three-year-old patter,
To a garden a-song with the birds’ chirp and chatter,
In the lull before lawnmowers grumble and clatter
At the on-set of Sunday’s affairs?
I would it were so
But it can’t be, I know
For my darling knows nothing
Mum will carry you downstairs as usual
In the small hours that are still part of night,
Knowing we face yet another long day
Of hoping the food that you’ve taken will stay
That you’ll grow that bit stronger, keep infection at bay,
In this wearying round of life’s fight.
For my darling’s not like other children,
Almost lost to us once without warning,
Cannot walk, cannot talk can’t our Treasure,
And Fate stole her sight for good measure,
Yet no-one will know greater pleasure
Than we, when she smiles, Sunday morning.
First draft, while the spirit moves.
How did you stop being mine, dad?
How did you walk out the door?
Did I see you do it, dad?
I can’t remember anymore.
I know only that you left, dad,
When I was some ten years old
And I’d have given anything to keep you, dad,
I’d have promised to be good as gold.
But the chance passed.
I know my mother was a pain, dad,
She remained a pain to me,
But I, the child, could not escape,
Couldn’t walk out the door and go free,
Til her death freed me at last.
I had to listen to her words, dad,
Had to learn how she blamed me,
For she’d sent you away, she would often say,
Because you didn’t love me
As you should.
No vitriol with that assertion,
Though she had enough and to spare,
And some of it you might have spared me,
If only you’d been there.
But you weren’t.
What kind of bad must I have been, dad,
That you could not love your first born?
And being so bad as I must have been
What wonder that God had foresworn
To love me?
I believed then, as a child believes,
And I grieved then, as a child alone grieves,
My path obscured by autumn leaves
Whate’er the season.
A darkness in me.
Half a century ago you disappeared,
Vanished, it transpires, in sunnier climes,
Had another son, a daughter too,
And, no doubt, some lovely times,
But I did not.
For half a century I missed you,
Felt an aching absence in my heart,
Missed your words, your looks, your thoughts,
And it broke me apart
Believing in no God, no Heaven,
I know we will not meet again,
That the man who died three thousand miles away
Has left me, till my death day, in the grip of pain
One conviction only, did you – in leaving – leave me,
Which is that it’s okay to not stay,
That it’s okay when you are under pressure
Simply to walk away,
And I have tried.
The night that others dread
Is naught but peace to me,
The silent darkness of the dead,
Offers naught but ease to me.
Yet I can’t get there.
Too many depend
For me to seek the easy end,
And all my life I now must spend
Why did you leave me, daddy?
Watching you grow
From little pink frog
To upright consciousness.
Watching you glow,
Your first smiles
Your first steps
Your first words
First sneezes, first hiccups,
Your first recognition of ‘daddy’.
Changing your diapers
That the odorous is not odious,
Your little parts sweet
In their diminutiveness.
Giving you lifts, here and there,
Buying school clothes,
Lighting birthday candles
And blowing them out.
You all about me,
I all about you.
Your toys on the floor,
Your books on the shelves,
Your questions relentless.
Your voice a girl’s
Your choices a girl’s
Ballerina or tomboy.
Your vests and knickers small in the laundry,
Your panties, your bra,
Hanging with stockings over the bath.
Your looking in the mirror,
The coming of consciousness
That I am not the only one
Who thinks you beautiful.
And boys, then, and mistrust,
That any boy could be good enough,
That scares me no little.
No little worrying,
And then the big day,
If boys are your choice,
You at my side,
Your farewell to arms
That have held you since childhood,
Your welcome to arms
That may bring you to motherhood
Photographs and memories,
Framed in glass or framed in brain,
Now almost nowhere,
For daughter, alas
You died ere they could come to pass.
Another oldie, on the theme of what it is to be a man.
In an echoing, empty subway
I fall back, so as not to be
perceived a threat by she who walks
alone ahead of me.
A second moves to pass me
I step well away to the side
that doubts that might darken her frightened mind
are, as far as they can be, denied.
Through choice would I never strike woman,
through choice would do no woman wrong,
I cannot despise them, nor trivialise them,
perceive women weak and men strong.
I’ll not play ‘It’s a man’s world’ games,
be thus prisoned, pretend to be free,
and the thrusting, assertive world of some men
holds no welcome – nor liking – for me.
If manhood must be one-upmanship –
emotions suppressed to compete,
others diminished one’s self to enhance –
then the prize of the game is defeat.
It has to be hateful, so much to be feared
by those we most need to be friends,
it has to be time to reject, now, those things
on which such a manhood depends.
True manhood must re-write the script,
must open eyes to a new way of seeing
that it matters much less to be one kind of man
than to be fully a true human being.
Chained to his balls
In a prison called ‘Man’,
What do they see
Who call him ‘free’?
Wage slave, unmanned,
To a glossy treadmill tied,
Or mortgaged to a private cross
With the strange pink tail,
Imprisoned in a maze called ‘Man’
Who ought to wonder who are these
Who envy him the scraps of cheese
That are the mouldy recompense
For life that does violence
by Richard V Raiment.