Monday, March 24, 2014

Tuesday Poem - A cycle for Milla by Geoff Page

A cycle for Milla

I've got the photo, not the name.
At one day old you're looking pensive,
hands arranged in thought.
Have you made the right decision,
propped there on the edge of chance?
Just hours ago you slipped out from
the broken amniotic
to greet the universe
although you've yet to see its stars.
A nipple is the first
of all your consolations;
your mother's mother hovers,
knowing what she knows.
Three more of us are weeks off yet,
working on our diaries.
Your acolytes, those stunned beginners,
survive as if they're on a wave,
inventing every minute.

Two months — and still your name escapes them.
'Baby Girl' will not quite do —
for all their cooed endearments.
They've tossed some tags about already,
knowing they won't stick.
One with five grand syllables
reducible to two
runs in front of all the rest
but can't quite win the race.
A name, these days, is no small gift:
a gingham dress or stone-washed jeans,
clothes to be grown into.
Some countries mandate saints or heroes;
others number off from 'One'.
The Registrar of Births and Deaths
(and Marriages) declares
a bureaucratic interest;
his patience lasts for two months only.
Already you are eloquent
concerning small discomforts,
that milky world of irritation
all babies must be heir to
and yet you've still to speak your name,
a word or words you can't give back,
a force to shape you, this way, that —
expectations, fencings in.
The playground, too, will have its part;
the verbal ingenuities,
its rings of nastiness.
Your elders stand about, admire —
and are disturbingly alert
to every connotation.
Meanwhile I, your father's father,
await your name's arrival.
I have my own for you already,
personally bestowed and spelt,
two syllables. I know too well
the word your parents will discover
must be the first of all
your life's small braveries
and lovely contradictions.

The distances, how strict they are,
those arguments of time and space!
I follow you in six-month leaps;
each time you'll be a little taller,
with gravity to match.
Email photos down the wire
are simulacra only.
Your eyes and ears each time will be
that half-year cleverer.
Right now your voice is magpie song
waiting for its words.
I hear it on the phone.
Your jumpsuits will be, month by month,
a Goldilocks Effect,
too big, just right and then discarded;
your shoes each time a little less
absurdly miniature.
Your temperament, I know, is taking
shape from day to day.
I see it mainly in its stages,
bequeathed to you from family trees
that ramify like Moreton Bays.
You are their double culmination;
all those accidents that brought you,
chance by chance by chance.
Slowly you will come, I hope,
to know me, trip by trip,
across the years allowed to us,
extra hands to push the swing
or walk you to the shop,
an incidental figure first
and slightly out of focus.
I'll use a name you've yet to say
and add a layer to your life,
intensify its complications,
a voice remembered on the phone,
a person who will now and then
contrive to feature in your smile,
relieving you for just a while
of all the loving and the long
intensity of parents.

Four months old, you're all alertness
glancing sideways at the lens,
mouth an O of cool surprise.
Perched there on your father's midriff,
you're following your mother's camera.
No doubt, your father's talking too.
For a moment, you are split between them:
his voice, her voice, that way, this.
The language they employ is strange
although it does contain a name.
Your jumpsuit is resplendent pink;
not a word you know as yet.
You're in a slant of morning light.
Down south, I check your sidelong smile.
Is that O a reprimand
or does it sue for explanation?
Four months old and four months new,
you're at the centre of creation.

Six months now, a second visit;
the digipix are turning real.
You're filling up all four dimensions
with a light and airy squeal.
Words are just there out of reach;
there's almost traction on the floor.
Your personality's arrived;
your sense of what the world is for.
You cry, of course, to get your way
but no more than you'll need in life.
I sense a moderation too;
a drawing back from shallow strife.
Your bath may not be Cleopatra's
but you are equally at ease
putting on a stylish levee
for your pair of devotees.
Hand-and-eye coordination
may need a year or two as yet
before you're up and playing doubles,
volleying across the net.
And, yes, it's true you're nappie-bound;
one shouldn't rush too far ahead.
You're mixing solids with your milk;
your legs are looking quite well-fed.
Mere images no longer serve;
true life will always outdo art.
Your breezy squeals run on before me;
already you've a half-year start.

At seven months and on the phone
you're still not more than birdsong really,
a sort of strutting on the lawn,
relishing with each new dawn
the first ascension of the worms.
Already I can hear some English
but what you have is fine for now.
Poetry, said Mallarmé,
should always reach for music.
You're all feeling, unalloyed;
a birdlike recklessness of song.
What is it you're discussing now?
Dependability of nipples?
The scary joys of novel fruits?
I try to walk a straighter line
eschewing baby talk —
we drift to a convergence.
Week by week and call by call
I hear the grammar of the tribe.
You find a trader's raw patois
for dealing with the world.

Well up on your
two feet now,
oh mistress of the
pots and pans,
flicker on-and-
off of switches,
devotee of
Yes I Can,
you've got there with
your dozen words.
Today, June 9,
declares you're one.
How could my
two hundred lines
describe your circuit
round the sun?

From Geoff Page's new book 'improving the news' published by Pitt Street Poetry.

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