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My Daughter at Ten

My daughter was born at the edge of day
When autumn’s equinox was a distant
Memory, the days in our northern town
Narrowing down like light through a keyhole,
Her mother and I praying for that light
To shine in our dawning daughter’s heart that
First day, praying for wisdom to show her—
You—the way to open the door and let
The light flood in to fill the room of her
Life with the light there waiting in her eyes.

We brought you home, uncertain of how to
Love you with the love that overwhelmed us,
How to protect you from our own mistakes
And the mistakes of others everywhere
That swirl round Earth’s atmosphere unaware
Of fragile just-born beings lying there,
Asleep, soft, smelling of springtime dewdrops,
Moon petals, sunbeam sweet pea barley tea,
How to keep you safe from danger but not
Safe from love, not safe from every good thing.

Some time passed, the sun and the moon sped by,
Birds flew, dogs barked in their turn, words upon
Words piled up all around you, wooden blocks
Formed into towers to tumble, we moved
To a new house, bigger, with a big yard,
Grandparents kept watch in their turn, new friends
Appeared, new places were tried, names turned over
On lips and tongue with laughter and cries of
Joy and dismay, aunts, uncles, and cousins,
Walks in the park, everything happening.

You were as precocious as the sunrise,
Singing and speaking, running and walking,
In and out of everything, your mind a
Light, your eyes open, your heart burning flames
Made of music and color, and yes, you
Gave us some trouble, too, we not always
Able to contain the spilling over
Urgency of wonder you couldn’t stop,
And then your sister was born and you were
The guide to her light, the sister teacher.

Preschool, Kindergarten, teachers smiling
Into your light, letting their warmth and yours
Merge in moments of time, good friends and best
Friends concocting adventures on the spot,
Scooters, skinned knees, nature walks, collecting
Pinecones, leaves, bugs, rocks, slugs, crawdads, fairies,
You learned by going, learned to ride a bike,
First on a grassy slope, then on a broad
Expanse of flat asphalt near an ice cream
Shop, and finally on sidewalks and streets.

You paved the world in reams of paper drawn
With pen and ink, pencil and paint, light and dark
Imagined things drawn from the world and made
New by the newness of you, you sang songs
Made out of the same intricate dreamstuff
And carried on dramatic productions,
Star-crossed narratives, comedic word play,
And I looked at you and your sister in
The rearview mirror, wondering at all
The mystery let loose within your souls.

The uniform you wore you wore so well
Back then, not for uniformity’s sake
But for the sake of style and tradition,
For the way the light shown on the fabric,
The way a kind of music played across
The pattern, especially when you sang
In the bleak midwinter, poor as I am,
What can I give him, give to him my heart,
When you sang that in the Cathedral with
All of heaven’s angels pausing to hear.

Earth stood hard as iron then, but summer
Softened the world and warmed the changing time
With a view of the strong flowing river
Where it came down from the falls past children
Playing, you and your new and old friends there,
And then a new school, new teachers, new light
On old thoughts growing and changing, looking
Past the past to see continuity
In all things, past the future to see the
Present moment resting there in your heart.

That moment of rest is there inside you
Always and forever for you to hold
Steady when you need to and you will find
A river of light flows through in full and
Bursting life and love, love of mother, love
Of father, sister, grandparents, cousins,
Aunts and uncles, friends and teachers, angels,
Saints, and God the source and fountain of love,
The love that there is no hiding from, the
Love that will never ever leave your side.

I am writing this on the eve of your
Tenth birthday and I cannot find the words
To say how much you mean to me, Holland,
To say how I am still as overwhelmed
As the day you were born, still overwhelmed
With love for you, still blinking in the light
Of you, still drinking in the mystery
And the majesty of you, and praying
For the wisdom to know how to let you
Open your door and fill the world with light.

Comments

  1. Jonathan Webb says

    Sounds good on paper…just kidding. Happy Birthday, Huckleberry Potter.

  2. Quin Finnegan says

    Nice … and a lot longer than a haiku!

    At this rate, I think we can expect an epic when she turns 21.

  3. This. Is. Simply. Beautiful.

    And it reminds me of nothing so much as this: http://homepages.wmich.edu/~cooneys/poems/Yeats.prayer.html

    What is it about daughters anyway? Willing to steal you heart at a moment’s notice, etc. – I have to say, I’ve got 7 of em and I DID NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS!

    But you gotta love ’em!

    On the face of it, my favorite part is this:

    We brought you home, uncertain of how to
    Love you with the love that overwhelmed us,
    How to protect you from our own mistakes
    And the mistakes of others everywhere
    That swirl round Earth’s atmosphere unaware
    Of fragile just-born beings lying there,
    Asleep, soft, smelling of springtime dewdrops,
    Moon petals, sunbeam sweet pea barley tea,
    How to keep you safe from danger but not
    Safe from love, not safe from every good thing.

    Although, the whole thing drags on the heart like the ache of a harpoon that’s worked it’s way dangerously close to the aorta…

    JOB

  4. Southern Expat says

    “Earth stood hard as iron then, but summer
    Softened the world…”

    I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE and I like it. Shades of Mandatory Holiday Fun, and all.

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