May 22, 2017

For My Daughter


I saw you first as some small prized gem
Passed between white-masked men
In rooms ablaze with light, and laid
Wrapped and so precious in my hands,
That I felt then I had somehow stolen
Some full measure of fire from heaven
And held it now on earth forever,
As firm as stone, as light as breath.

In all my days, of all my days,
No gift was given me but you,
And this I knew as we first met
In that bronze-bright room
Where, draped in white, I heard
The music of your newborn's heart,
And knew you'd stand the first in mine
For all the moments mine would mark,
And those moments all of yours beyond.

Since then the years have rolled away,
And separate rooms enclose us now.
Still in the meadows of my heart,
In that first moment, all my circles close,
Like runners rounding third at dusk,
And safe at last come loping home.

That moment was the best of life,
Held in my heart where distance dies,
Yet I am trapped in these thin lines
That cannot paint a love so wide,
And all my mind and meager art
Lies stunned and speechless struck.

In life, our words are clipped and brief.
We do not say what we would speak,
Since saying would in some strange way
Dissolve the moment, reverse the day,
And risk the heart would come to grief.
All is left unspoken, unexplored but sensed,
Our interrupted lives accepted as the wind,
As some red weather over which
We have no control beyond a shrug,
As if to speak of love except at slant
Were to invite the derision of the sky,
And so we must in silence trust
That in not speaking our love will grow.
And if you wish it, why then I wish it so.

Let all that be as it shall be, but here I shall reveal
Those deeper notions that I hold, and always shall,
For you, my only child, as on the dawn
Of this one day in deepest winter I mindful mark
How we began beyond all those winters gone.
And if, in speaking here in such strange silence, I
Will say too much by saying short, I trust
In your emerging love to be, as all doting fathers must,
Forgiven these few words; if not today, in time,
For not to speak in time would be the cruelest way.

Of all the gifts I've lost you are
The single one I seek to find.
But that I know I cannot know,
For I by you must now be found,
As you your child must also hold,
Until the woman you shall be
Unfolds from child and stands apart,
Upon some hill I shall not know
Where all that is spreads out below,
And following paths to trails to roads
You trace your own bright shadow home.

How distant now was that chill day
When wrapped you first drowsed within
My forearm, head cupped in my hand,
And dazed and dazzled, gazed about
That buzzing room as if to see
All the things that you would be,
Awakened now from that strong sleep
That had embraced and nourished you
Since, in another afternoon's half-sleep,
You were begun in a patch of sun,
That fell in softened patterns through the boughs,
Where two doves murmured your as yet unknown name,
And, in the softened rustle of their breaths,
Sang you into being as the music of our dream.

Now that spring has faded far,
Although I hear its music still,
But you, my dearest, darling girl,
Are of that spring in every cell,
And more than dreams could ever tell.

The years from there to here all blur,
Their endless seconds ended each
In their short span, and here we stand
Within another winter's day to mark
The day when first at last we met.

Within that room your gift was such,
I did not think that it could be
Not mine forever, yet now I know
That all our children must be free.
We hold them only through our letting go

-- Written for my daughter on her sixteenth birthday

Posted by Vanderleun at May 22, 2017 6:22 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I am stunned everyday to realize that our only child is now 13 years older than I was when he was born.

Two harsh realities:
Time seems faster in hindsight.
Time seems faster in foresight when you're old.

When you're 10 a year is forever but when you're 60 a year is a month.

Life is like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you get to the end the faster it goes - a shitty deal if you ask me.

No I don't wanna see video of your child's birth but I'll certainly take a look at video of the conception. :-)

Posted by: ghostsniper at May 22, 2017 11:53 AM

I assume, forgive me if I'm mistaken, that you are estranged from your daughter. Nothing could be more painful, and you have my undying sympathy if so.

Mine is 51 now; her last words to me were "I don't want you in my life." I confess I don't know what else to do but to honor that.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at May 22, 2017 12:01 PM

You have a gift. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Posted by: Leslie at May 22, 2017 12:13 PM

Many will tell you that, in time, in time, in time all will come round again and that the estrangement will fade and be over... and I suppose for most they do. But for some this does not seem to be happening as the days diminish down to a precious few.

Posted by: vanderleun at May 22, 2017 12:46 PM

How very beautiful.

Posted by: ahem at May 22, 2017 4:07 PM

That made my day Gerard. I have a very hard time with my similar life experiences. And the weeks are flying by so fast I cannot gather the words to help my soul. You and I have some things in common besides our age.

Posted by: Terry at May 22, 2017 4:39 PM

So beautifully said.

I was one of those kids who didn't talk to her father for years. I had a right to be angry, but I thank God that he granted me the grace, finally, to just let it go. It was so good to set down that burden.

I pray, for any here whose children can't let go of their resentments, whatever the reason, that they too may have the grace and the wisdom to let the wrath in their hearts soften and turn once more to love.

Posted by: Julie at May 22, 2017 5:23 PM

Given the tone of this thread, I'll add my heartbreaking story to the mix and swill some vinegar water afterward. My Irksome Middle Child has abandoned us. No contact...well, occasionally to blame us for all that is wrong in her life. But she also abandoned her son and her marriage and we are left to try to explain why mommy doesn't want him. I can't. St. Monica pray for us.

Posted by: Jewel at May 22, 2017 6:16 PM

I have learned that, that life is long and with luck we have about 10 years to share lives with our children. By the time their mid-teens arrive, the almost infinite opportunities and challenges of the wide world pull them away. More and faster, their lives become hidden to us. That is as it should be, that as parents is how we want it.

With even more luck, they will come by from time to time and let us know what's doing. Even though they are immersed in their worlds, I think it gives them comfort and courage to know that their parents keep a home for them to come visit, if for a little while.

There was an essay on the Internet some years back, but I've lost track where it is. Some country folk fostered some abandoned fox pups, I think. For awhile the growing pups were part of the family, but one day the call of the wild forestlands beyond the homestead became too strong, and they left. The people reported that on occasion, they see a lone fox near dusk, sitting at the edge of the clearing and looking at the homestead for awhile, before turning back to the forest. The people reported that it gave them great comfort to recognize that fox as one of their grown up pups.

Posted by: John A. Fleming at May 22, 2017 11:51 PM

Thank you for not leaving these thoughts unspoken.God spared me from the challenge of raising daughters (thank you Lord) by blessing me with two sons. Now I have three granddaughters. From birth the three have continued to mystify and captivate me with their open-hearted vulnerability,their steely resolve, and their gentle strength. I will share your poetry with their Dads, who have my sympathy.

Posted by: Baba at May 23, 2017 5:36 AM

I was in tears before the end. I have a 23-y/o daughter and we are very close. She just graduated this month with a BS in chemical engineering, cum laude, with honors.

But it was just last week that I held her "as some small prized gem ... Wrapped and so precious in my hands."

In this life we have nothing - no property, no wealth, no progress, no substantive dreams, no health, no time.

In this life, all we have is one another, nothing else. Job said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart,’ but he was only half right. Naked are we born, but we die clothed in the love we gave away.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at May 23, 2017 6:26 AM

I am the father of two beautiful daughters, 26 and 22. My older lives and works in NYC and the younger will attend grad school in the Fall. We don't always see eye to eye but I am so fortunate that we are close and love each other.

I don't really care for poetry but I like this and I sent it to them to remind them of how much they mean to me.

Posted by: Jack at May 23, 2017 8:11 AM

I love this. Good timing, too. My oldest is 13 this week. Lord, help me not to hold on too tightly.

Posted by: Cindy at May 24, 2017 8:00 AM
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