Progeny (poem for a puppet)

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Progeny

“Thine eyes did see mine unfinished substance …”

(Psalms 139:16)

 

In a miniature bed you lie, handkerchief for a blanket,

head so light it makes no indent in your tiny pillow.

 

Assemblage of wire and clay, glass and graphite, you are

an outpouring of love, the closest I have to progeny.

 

Dry slit of mouth, pained and vivid as a cold sore,

expression caught between startle and melancholy.

 

I dreamt once that you came to life, and ran from me.

I called you – but could not find your name.

 

At the bottom of my grandparent’s garden, I found you

in the shadows beyond the woodshed where,

 

a lifetime ago, I had loitered, morose beneath plum trees,

the summer my cousin died. Little doll, you were radiant.

 

Inside your hollow head, a ripening;

glass eyes gleaming, your tombstone pallor thawing.

 

Tell me your name.

 

Leaning in, you whispered a name so plain and small

I could not bring myself to repeat it.

 

But to be a mother is to accept the ways

in which our children fail to shine.

 

So I said your name and colour rose in your cheeks,

brittle fingers flexed and you moved towards me,

 

teeth chattering, stick-thin arms

winding tight around my pulsing neck.

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