Birthrights

Birthrights

Just for once
I’d like to be the one
Who not only
Didn’t give a damn
But didn’t even feel
He had to:

Permitted to be adequate,
Content with average,
Playing for fun,
And strolling into every day
With the same, insouciant
Could-do attitude.

But it is not given
That we poor firstborns
Should whoop it up
Kick over traces
Tie one on or
Make a joyful noise:

No. Duty and correctness
Are our lot.
To follow precedents and not our hearts,
To do our best and not our will,
To set examples
And not the world on fire.

We sport the scars
Of tumbles from the bicycles
Our younger siblings just climbed on
And rode. Ours is the fear,
The sweat and endless trying:
Theirs the weightlessness, the speed and feel of flying.

And then, we leaders into life
Must head the dull procession
Out of it: be first to find
Our arms have got too short for reading,
And in the vanguard of the ones
The world leaves far behind.

If primogeniture made kings and queens
Of us, we’d wear your expectations
As diamonds in our crowns.
But the Esau that’s in all of us
Feels their weight, and quietly wonders
If we’ve already lost by coming first.

Last week I had a discussion with David about whether our innate competitiveness, sense of responsibility and compulsion to ‘do the right thing’ stems from our being eldest children. Having speculated there might be a poem in it somewhere, I then (naturally) felt duty-bound to write one: this is the rather tongue-in-cheek result.