Monday, 22 June 2009
I said I'd put this up, so here it is...
What you get married for if you don’t want children?
Vivienne’s line in The Waste Land was not ours.
An afterthought perhaps, a bit bewildering,
Best left in the lap (or groin) of hidden powers.
It seems for most of life things just arrive,
That little if anything is got by scheming.
Some people prosper, some barely survive,
But time still slips by as if you were dreaming.
So children – two – we’re only twenty-four.
First Tom, then Helen, drop into existence .
We’ve not much option about being born; what’s more,
We tend to get there only with assistance.
Ah babies! Little squalling bags of need.
They smile, they bawl, they wave their limbs, and sleep;
They sick up food, they talk, crawl, walk, and feed,
They want new clothes and toys: they don’t come cheap.
Enemies of promise: prams left in the hall,
Said a curmudgeon writer one sour day.
You start with kids, it’s you left feeling small,
Damn children insist on getting in the way.
But no, it's not like that, life never is.
They leap, they bounce, they speak, they grow, they think,
Discovering their own capacities.
The world expands around them, link by link.
They feel their way along as you felt yours,
And now you try to feel it for them too,
But their way’s different. They must walk through doors
You’ve never opened or have just peeked through.
First Helen’s birth. She was relaxed about it.
Quite floppy and unflustered, not too bothered.
Life was OK, enough to scream and shout it
Once or twice, before being firmly mothered.
Tantrums came later, a session or two of yelling.
What are babies to do, when what they want
Is somehow not within their power of telling,
Except to pull the odd dramatic stunt?
That passes: now it’s school, the social whirl,
Close friends with neighbour’s children, time for parties.
Time for Dead Lions, time for Birthday Girl,
Time for the cake, for orange juice, and Smarties.
Here comes the sandpit, the colouring book, the pet,
The kitten with her silent pitter-patter -
Here’s Piglet, here’s the starter Lego Set,
Here’s Fisher-Price, the Pollock’s Toy Theatre.
Here’s music lessons, arithmetic, PE,
Here’s church, and bible class, and grandma’s glasses,
Here’s grandad’s jokes, and Auntie Hilary,
And “All they do is dance” at dancing classes.
Here come the trips to Budapest. You’re eight.
The city streets with all their foreign glamour!
The sheer pleasure of staying up so late!
The boredom of it, summer after summer!
School plays, directing, acting, music, art.
Sophia, Becky, Magdalen, and Eng Lit.
The dawn-drenched essays with the midnight start.
Close-reading, poetry, fiction and lit-crit.
What was it next? The baker and the bar,
And Vision Express, and then a dose of TEFL.
My sense of sequence won’t go back that far,
It’s not impossible I’m talking piffle.
Italy comes in somewhere in between,
Or after, or before, I now forget.
You’re in your twenties, no longer a teen.
There’s all that Bloomsbury stuff to come in yet.
Ah, Bloomsbury, the Harry Potter coven.
The serious fiction fuelled by children’s stories.
While J K Rowling pops one in the oven,
Out fly a complete set of Edward Goreys.
Launches and lunches, publishing, corrections,
With late nights at the office chewing text.
The Gradgrind grind of editing whole sections,
No sooner done then starting on the next.
But love can blossom even as you toil.
Along comes Rich like a fine illustration.
Soon you’re together burning midnight oil,
And where there’s love there’s somewhat less frustration.
A Hundred and One Things to Do Before you Die?
Hmm, let’s make that a thousand, why not two?
Before we’re old and boring we might try
Another couple of thousand, plus a few.
In Haberdasher Road the pair reside,
Ancestral portraits lining stately halls.
Old Street and Hoxton Square await outside,
With smart appointments and brisk social calls.*
And now she’s marrying Rich we are the richer.
She was an Upchurch-Szirtés child when born,
And though love is the ancient great bewitcher,
She says her name has not been turned to Horne.
The Horne of plenty. Yes, we lose but gain.
It seems that much of time is so much seeming,
But loves come out on top time and again,
And this is a true wedding. We’re not dreaming.
From the beginning,
From the start,
From the first beat of the human heart,
There must be a whole of which we’re part.
From the beginning,
Within the genes,
From infancy, childhood, and through our teens,
We seem to imagine certain scenes.
Here’s a beginning,
Here’s scene one,
Here is the movie that life may run,
Here is the joy that the song is done,
Here is a daughter and a son,
And here we all are, everyone.
We’re here, we’re now, we’re in the flesh: we’ve seen
The ceremony, the ring, the kiss, the dress.
Our family’s doubled, we’re twice what we have been:
Double the day, the love, the happiness.
*This device is called irony. There are no ancestral portraits. Just in case there should be any misunderstanding. It's verse, innit? Some family events and in-jokes, la-la. It's not the blasted Waste Land (though it begins with it)!