by rob mclennan
Read Writing Fatherhood, Part One, Part Two and Part Three.
The Key of N
Dividends, bewildered powers. Stretch-marks, nursery. Secondary heart-beat. Listen: blood pools, pulse, the powdered structure. Spilling forth. Grammatic, slowness. Slowness of the ground, the passage, seasons’ fall. Belonging to. Fragments, disappear. The sun sometimes divides, a music. Pressure points. Take pleasure in, a run-on, run-off. Sentenced. Is the theme of voice. Montage, a vessel. What, you hold her. Listen, pulse. Attention, all. As if to recognize.
Over the first two weeks of November, I composed poems for my second daughter, uncertain if she was days or even hours from emerging. Perhaps the waiting, and the unknown, is the worst part of all. Apart from the pain, Christine reminds. Over the years, one of my favourite book dedications has been from George Bowering’s In The Flesh (McClelland & Stewart, 1974) that reads: “dedicated to Thea Claire, who arrived just then.” The photo on the back cover includes author and newborn daughter, as Thea chews contentedly on her fist.
Just how do male writers write about their offspring? The male perspective as parent and caregiver couldn’t be more interwoven with confusion, contradiction and mixed signals. Still, the deeper I delve into our bookshelves, the more examples I discover. Winnipeg poet Dennis Cooley, father of two now-grown daughters, includes the poem “megan” in the “New Poems” section of his sunfall: new and selected poems 1980-1996 (Anansi, 1996). The piece gives the impression of a newborn still in the hospital under a health scare, as he writes “the moon / is eating you yellow as the jaundice / you were born into Christmas,” and further lines such as “lie now inside your fear,” and “we both know there is nothing i can do / cannot scare off the wolves this night / which always before you have turned / to anger now you lie quiet / at the ends of my frightened love[.]” Cooley writes:
you on the end of our lives
something is in & they will enter
the thin membrane of your breath
your life that lifts from our throats
wanting you to float there forever
moving as moons should move
bright & perennial as the night which turns
into a second fullness
stuck on the sky’s high ceiling
our silent calling