Searching through my mountain of memory sticks, looking for a set of photos I took last summer for a poetry booklet but seem to have deleted, I’ve come across several pieces I’ve written over the years and then forgotten. Digital copies of annual Christmas letters, story outlines, opening paragraphs, over-heard conversations that were too good to go to waste, full stories in a few cases and even the odd bit of poetry. I say odd – all the work was written pre the MA course and reading through them, I’ve spotted heaps of things that are weak with each one. But heaps of things that are good, too, not least the fact that there is so much of it. To think that all this time I’ve told myself that I’m not a writer and that I never have time to write.
Some of the writing is pure emotion, written to get anger or pain or heartbreak out of my head to stop it poisoning me, and as such, I wouldn’t want to share it. But here’s a poem that I’ll allow to see the light of day. I’ve brushed its hair a bit and re-tied its shoelaces, giving it a final tickle of ‘you’ll do’ under the chin, but I would ask you to look kindly on it as it being a very young child.
“It’s a boy,” your father said, his face pushed
through the blue-gowned army
round the bed who pulled
you into life. “Can’t you see?”
your masked-deliverer said and raised
you like a prize, the error revealed,
your female form displayed,
and weak with tiredness and pride,
we cried tears of joy, your father and I,
allegiance transferred as quick
as the blanket-swaddled heartbeat
firm beneath his hand.
He held you first: till then you had been mine,
though never really mine nor his
just borrowed for a time,
your love the thing that binds us to you, pains us,
brings a joy we cannot put a value
on. And you? You look ahead and strain
to walk a pace our steady, guiding hands
no longer keep. One day you’ll go and
then, no doubt, we’ll weep but know that it is right
and good you should. No backward glance –
you owe us nothing; that much
we have always understood.
But sometimes, sometimes still, a flicker
in your rare un-made-up face recalls a time
when once I was the moulder of your day,
the watcher of your dreams,
the keeper of the key to your world
as you, child, have been of mine.