A small bird
On a narrow branch
Where pale new leaves are springing.
Will her soft feathers
Withstand the winter wind;
Does her timid, unpractised eye
Spy the fat, fallen grain
And is her grip secure
When the bough bends beneath her?
Would that I
Could cradle her
Forever in my hand,
Shield her from foul weather
And the wickedness I see.
But more than that
I would watch those hard-won wings –
As yet untried, hesitant, uncertain in their strength –
Unfurl and catch the breeze
So that her song and colours
May brighten all the world.
I have a terror
Of turning into
A visceral, mortal
Dread of plaid flannel shirts
Soft shoes, drawstring waistbands
Feeling the cold
Declaring they don’t
Write them or make them
Like that any more
Trying to hold conversations
In buttery fingers
All these cars came from
And why are they going so fast
It was all trees here
And staring at this screen
What in God’s name
Does any of it mean.
But since I’ll never be
The one with the toolbox
And the strong, quick hands
The one with the shed
Full of jars of just what you’ve been looking for
The one who always has time
To be counsellor, confidant,
The one you have only to ask
And for whom nothing
Is too much trouble
The one who remains calm
And unfailingly finds the right words
When it’s all gone horribly wrong
I have nothing to fear
She can’t abide my music: ‘It’s so sad,”
She groans, “embarrassing, old stuff.”
I start a disc, she stops her ears: “NO, Dad!”
A single bar of some tracks is enough
To send her running from the room. So now
I guess it will be years before we see
Things quite the same way, and I wonder how
And where we’ll differ (not just musically)
These songs sit at the heart of who I am:
I won’t forsake my country, rock or folk.
There’s nothing in the charts now worth a damn:
Those ‘talent contest’ winners – what a joke.
But give it time: I know that she’ll come round
And recognise my tastes as truly sound.
I wanted to end the week on a bit of a lighter note, and my beloved daughter gave me all the material I needed en route to her piano lesson this afternoon.
The swifts do not debate: they will depart,
Though summer still lies soft on England’s fields,
For stormy seas and distant shores. Its heart,
Touched by September frosts, the great oak yields
Its crown and glory to decay; the rose
Gives up its scent, lets its bright colours run
Without regret, and vast, all-conquering snows
Surrender meekly to the reborn sun.
So who am I to wish to stop the wheel
And hold her always in this time, this age?
I must seek out that secret strand of steel
Within, accept this turning of the page.
This is her time to run, to fly, to grow;
And mine to learn to live with letting go.
She’ll be home:
An hour remains
Of this week in my own skin
Before I assume the shape and antics
Of Daddy once again.
I should spend
These sixty stolen minutes
Savouring the peace
The lightness of heart and head
Freed from questions
Relieved of needs –
Live a little longer
At a grown-up pace.
But I’m waiting.
Quiet has become
Liberty, the lack of her.
And for all I wish her
To go free
And seize her world
Mine is flat
When she’s not in it
To give it roundness