Lesson

1 May 2014

‘Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.’
‘Wild Geese’, Mary Oliver

Over the empty distance between continents
we transmit facsimiles of affection. Your daughter,
the elder, has learnt to count. She can list the things
I have sent her: dresses, toy cats, a tent, picture books

about Australia. The younger has no words yet, but you tell me
she sometimes points to a photograph of Rob and myself.
I have seen her exactly twice. I do not yet know her smell,
the stretch and tangle of her limbs, her shifting weight in my arms.

My grief is also anger at death; at my inability to create,
sustain and free. Meanwhile, your girls grow: now they stand,
now they walk and talk. One day when we were alone I taught her
a new word: silver. She tried it on her tongue, the word taking shape.

Later, when we passed the sculpture, silver, of her own volition.
We could not now unlearn what we had carelessly, lovingly been taught.

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