There’ll be ample time to talk of wonders;
but for now, you have the gift of eyes and ears.
Silence speaks as loud as lightning thunders.
Save those unspoken thoughts for coming years.
As for now, take note: watch the world unfold,
watch the patterns change and the colours dance;
watch the hand shake, the foot step, the toe hold.
Recognise yourself in a friendly glance.
As for now, listen: hear the change of tone;
hear the rhythm, the pitch, the count of three;
hear the heart beat, the ear drum, the jaw bone.
Make yourself ready for the change of key.
. Two eyes, two ears, but just one mouth for each.
. There’s much to be said for the gift of …
To the reader: It’s not that babies can’t vocalise; it’s more the point, they can’t speak. And all for good reason. The receptive senses of hearing, seeing, touching, tasting and smelling need time to grasp the rituals of living. In this sensory world, babies communicate reactively; using spontaneous gestures that display their simple understandings of the comfort continuum. Our physical glossary precedes our emotional vocabulary.
To the poet: Our first language belongs to the body. And I suppose through body-language we can express the sentiments of any poetic theme or form. Words are just subsequent translations of abstracted notions the brain has previously rehearsed; remnants of an internal theatre. Before speech performs its reductive act, let the first scene be one of mental gymnastics … creatively dance within …hold that thought.
He stakes his claim and demands position,
stipulates his terms and fixes his spot.
We watch askance, this crude exhibition
of stubbornness; will he, or will he not?
Those around him, about his axel spin,
infantile argument, circular shape,
centrifugal anger fuelled from within.
A storm’s eye, vortex, that’s hard to escape.
He grips tight, pin-points his agitation.
He asserts his temperament; taciturn.
Imploding mood centres his rotation.
With spiralling momentum, so things churn.
. Stubbornness grips to a fixed position,
. and so gives no ground without condition.
To the reader: A child’s public tantrum makes an unpleasant scene; psycho-drama writ-large! With crudely-crafted powers of persuasion the toddler tests the strength of new-found tactics; claiming more independent territory with each event. The assertive-aggressive personality matures into an effective form of attention seeking; one that loses its stamp-of-approval with years beyond five or six. The storm quickly brews, tension builds; fury is released – damage is repaired and peace restored… the toddler is tamed!
To the poet: The public tantrum is no rare occurrence. Little bundles of dynamite regularly ignite; catching those in close-proximity by surprise. With short-wicks these volatile miscreants can derail a train of thought with devastating effect. The passenger-poet is one of many hapless victims. As the wreckage is surveyed, for post-crash forensics, there’s often an unaccounted empty seat … a surrendered supposition.
Then there’s the other playground, hidden
from the cast of eyes, from the field of view.
Given shape of whispers, a forbidden
terrain that no survey could map as true.
Due regard, a somewhat wise precaution.
As with a grain of truth in rumour’s mill,
this place has no scale of good proportion.
All things can be ground to a common swill:
’til there’s nothing left of confidence,
just the remnants of dignity, respect,
and honour; nothing but shallow pretence,
a bastion of moral poverty … wrecked.
. Play, ground away, under spiteful attack,
. Brittle is its surface; ready to crack
To the reader: As a school principal, I watched with horror the spiteful subterranean attack of girls on each others’ friendships. Damage to dignity inflicts a cruel wound; one that festers long after its initiation. The attacks were often highly orchestrated and finely targeted at a hapless victim. The remedy was to some extent exposure but humiliation of the perpetrator was fuel to the fire. Reconciliation was the broker’s joy!
To the poet: This sonnet was constructed to highlight the fragility of a playground. Designed with a sharp tongue in mind. An outpouring of emotion, prone to pretence and posturing. A string of words nuanced with nastiness. If you’re listening carefully there’s a reference to self-pity; an obfuscation, that distracts attention from cause and effect. The mere suggestion of ill-will is an affront worthy of indignation. Words just words… I don’t think so.
He came, he went, he left her with the baby.
Then (as though hardly-done) he moped his lot.
The burden of self-pity said: “save me,
I am lost – stripped of cause and future plot”.
And what of the mother with child in arms?
In receipt of half the chattels, just things
stuffed in a bag: no niceties, no charms.
A bag full of feathers, nothing like wings.
Who knows what the child was thinking. He smiled
from beneath an Easter bonnet; no blame,
no shame; a child’s forgiveness reconciled
to bear the burden of his parents’ frame.
. Children – forgive them for they do not know;
. forsaken of the gifts that you bestow.
To the reader: It had obviously been a long day of angry disputation. This was the moment of uncoupling. A dreadful determination to unpack the family. She had taken their child to a family restaurant and was awaiting the father’s arrival. He arrived with a plastic bag of bare essentials. With remnants exchanged, the child (from beneath an Easter Bonnet) glanced between the two… later … the father sat alone; weeping in a pool of self-pity.
To the poet: The second of two sonnets that reference arrival and departure. “He came, he went” with no conclusion. His legacies include an onerous gift in wrappings of self-pity. And so it is we often feel confused and bereft… the victims of choice. The April message of Father and Son was an influence on both sonnets. But neither makes extended reference to Easter; just enough to draw upon its key themes of forsaken and forgiven love.
He came, he went, left me none the wiser.
More or less, it seems, this was his intent.
I am, through him, left the improviser.
It’s mine: mine to wonder, mine to invent,
mine to discover; with free-will to dream.
I am, myself, an independent cell.
And so it was. He left me here to redeem
from his departure – that gift – a morsel
of truth so simple, so perfect, so brief;
and yet so difficult to comprehend.
I am free to doubt and state disbelief:
to question his way to my journey’s end.
. This then is the gift of my father’s breath,
. I need no longer fear the time of death.
To the reader: The perfect gift is free-will. What a clever deception. It’s like a kite; useless without string. Hand a child a beautiful kite and after days of frustration he or she will soon ask for the attachment. Upon receiving the greatest gift of all we are burdened with responsibility; we are chained to free-will’s insatiable curiosity; indebted to its reciprocal loop of expectation. The moral burden of free-will is unforgiving; ultimately, I must account for my transgressions … for the choice was mine.
To the poet: A bundle of tangled thoughts about parenting and the delegation of authority through moral expectation. Religious overtones abound… capitalise the ‘H’ in ‘he’ and you have a sermon; without, it’s a son’s contemplation of his father’s developmental influences: distantly demanding, vaguely judgemental and omnipotently present… your choice; but have you thought about the consequences and can you afford the cost? They are yours alone to bear.