CONVERSATION ON A BRIDGE
Don’t let me maunder: I could better write it out,
My bitter page of memories. Throw a stone in the drink,
And let it make wide water-rings, and sink:
Much better than the long regret and doubt
That accompanies rehearsing of my lot,
My wishing that that history were not.
Come and lean on the parapet, and watch the low
And lovely little waterfalls, crystal amid stones:
Notice how the ground in autumn tones
Seems reflection of the action and the woe
Which now I sing: which clings to me, despite
My firmest resolutions made by night,
That all would never see the light of day
Again. But see that little pebble?
Hear the waters wash on it, a pipy treble?
It’s like a little baby, curled up into clay,
With perfect hands and feet, my grandchild slain –
And only accusations still remain.
My daughter never speaks to me direct:
It’s like I’ve lost her too, and the secret ways
We used to work together. And she spends her days
Lost in vigorous striving, posing for effect,
And her eyes never sparkle, as they used to, once,
Before she blamed her Mum for this offence.
All right, I suppose I’m part to blame, for that move
To remove the conceptus, to be bold and suave,
And thinking that to lose the babe would save
Her, when she only needed love.
And what that dark decision then entailed –
No wonder that she claimed I failed.
And I freely admit it: I spoke of human rights,
Her right to make this choice, my no-right to deter her,
And yet in retrospect her rights had all been clear
And violated, ere she reached the plight
So dire for her: all her rights ignored
Before she ever reached the clinic’s door:
Her right to protection, her right to unselfish love,
Her right to be double-valued as she stood with child:
Her right to be supported, and not further trialled
With inquisitions, an iron fist in glove:
The right to have me cuddle her, agree
“You both can stay with me.”
But I was afraid. I was afraid of seeming
Some impossible slut with a slut for a daughter,
Afraid of all the words that taught
About being sensible, and not dreaming
That two women could relinquish being rôles,
And just be women, with imperfect souls –
By Joseph Biddulph for WRITE to LIFE