A fistful of stories

 

A fistful of stories

The journey began in a January made cold by depression.
Two secrets lay with pressure at the heart of a new year:
We were to have a baby, and it too soon to reveal,
too early to celebrate, but not to seal the drink.
Profound gloom gripped my every artery, flowed
freely from a well of loneliness that never dried.
The shadowside returned and taken over
robbing me of capacity to uncork joy of girl or boy.

Unfit for work that month, my memory let pass each day
without recording the slightest smile: what was worthwhile
in the time? How was the pregnancy to be seen
with energy? How was the man to rise to the occasion,
when what was at stake was for a lifetime?
Fearfully, un-tearfully, I slipped back to work in February.
Five weeks before I screamed without sound,
before I burst without breaking.

I threw a self on the mercy of my beloved.
She held me, firm throughout March. The doctors too.
Together we broke the news on phone to family:
we were expecting a baby. It was our greatest joy.
We wished for another surprise, called it Itsy,
Beyond gender, we took the scan,
made an altar by the bedside. It was still
freezing. But the thaw began and never let up.

In Seville, there are little girls in long dresses
striding along narrow streets in the old Jewish quarter.
Vibrant yellow, flourishing pink, you’d think
a bunker of golfers had come to admire the Spring.
I’d begun to sing a melody only I could hear,
while unflown tears grew dry. Back
from the rack, a training manager again, I began
“A diary for Itsy” – before the rising of the birds.

Dawn broke, sunlight across the Moravian Church.
across the road Blossom Cottage bloomed, our wee treasure sprouted.
Her conception celebrated in song, verse and sandcastles.
I remembered Kilkee, picnics by the sea, periwinkles,
short bent pins scooping slimey shellfish out.
Cobblers in the Pollock Holes, Rackets and swimming in salt.
Piece by piece, I painted warm colours all over my childhood.
Unknown to me, I was getting ready to go home.

June came, the air of redundancy
re-discovery of Jimmy Webb, uncovering
David Whyte, and poppies by the road to Oxford.
I sat with Marie while ducks played past Flag Iris.
We talked of generations and making fun in Cork.
We imagined what the stork would bring.
There was time to sing when July arrived:
two job offers for Edel, a ticket to move.

Grace flooded out onto the Royal United Hospital maternity bed,
Thirteen hours and thirty minutes after the first contraction.
Violetta her middle name, and she wide awake.
For her sake I’d dipped into “The Bloke’s Guide to Pregnancy”
swatted-up on nappy re-cycling, bought a Stokke Sleepi.
She blew away the luxury of sleep, fed her way into our lives.
fragile bundle of need we had to feed. Sluggardly,
the puzzling for patterns predominated. Grace made her space.

I left the job and went to work with my two wonderful women,
slipping easily from Bristol city buses to domesticity,
revelling in the art of slinging her up the Cotswold Way,
or round the Circus, up Milsom Street, even past the Crescent.
There was Cork waiting with harbour, taking newcomers
into Douglas. The present is a strange land, and I’m ill-prepared,
an innocent abroad in native hands,
ready to stand on my head to fit in suburban woods.

There goes the year, you know it well.
It had a fistful of stories to tell.

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