An Arrangement for Seeing Children
You were born in the front room
of a house behind the police station
and because I was a policeman
the midwife let me stay to watch.
You were not much trouble or so it seemed to me.
She groaned only intermittently
and the lady let me hold her hand.
At the moment of delivery
you managed to get your navel cord caught
like a silk strand around your throat
and this was a symbol I could understand
having done the same thing all my life.
I was not much interested in you then,
you looked as if you had been crudely carved in marble,
but I helped give you your names,
hoping you would fit them as you grew.
When you grew we pointed cameras at you
we stopped you playing, badgered you to stand still,
clicked the little button at the side
and then went on with what we had been doing.
That was all that parenthood required –
you fixed inside a cardboard box.
Thus you would not be forgotten
no matter how faulty our two memories.
And we two? We had reasons and excuses of our own.
We had our lives to lead, each other to enjoy
and a theory about not pampering our children.
We fed you, clothed you and used you by the names that we had chosen.
Now as you know we have broken - I live in one house
and you in another where I call on Saturdays.
I will never be able to explain why this is so
never having understood it for myself.
I know only that your red and freckled head
which waves out of our window points at me –
half way to the bus stop I hear your shutter click
as the road's curve covers me.
And I pray the picture you have taken
will be fogged and faulty
and that you will go on happily
with the things you had been doing.
from Five Ways to Kill a Man: New and Selected Poems (Enitharmon, 1997), by permission of the publisher. Recording used by permission of the BBC.