Sonnets and Photographs
Sonnets and Photographs.
In blue fleeces and stripy, red all-in-ones,
You lay in your cot, gurgling in your sleep.
The shoelace, washed-out yellow, has begun
To come undone, and I can perhaps peek
The pink of your cotton-wool soft baby skin
That I tickle with the tip of my finger,
So you squirm and giggle, and blink, and grin
And chortle as I hold Baba up, and linger.
The photograph stands on the cluttered table
In our parent’s room, and we laugh, unable
To stop teasing for your embarrassed stance,
Your cherry-red cheeks and forgetful hands.
Aged two and you are angry.
Your hands playing absently
With the gorse-bush by your side,
As you search for the missing photographer.
But your pose is lost as your finger stings,
Your face creases into an age that even
Our grandfather cannot imitate, and tears
Run down your crumpled cheeks.
Told you so, told you so! Your howls
Are bat-like in the lunchtime air,
And you stamp your hush-puppy foot
Into the springy, unyielding heather.
You were heavy in my lap and my collar itched.
You wiggled and I wished Mummy would pick you up
And forgive me the failure of this duty.
You’re big sister. Which meant I had to hold you,
Tight and close for the endless minutes.
Don’t you look pretty together? The woman keened,
And I wanted to hit her. Don’t you look alike.
He’s drooling onto my hand, and I cannot wipe it.
The flash illuminates the room, and you blink,
Threaten to scream. So I loosed my hold,
Tickle your chest. Your scream turns to a chuckle,
And I smile, as again – the camera flashes.
St Mark’s Square and it is after midnight;
Tired and aching we ask for water.
They bring us bottles with tiny pieces of lemon
That flicker in the too-clean glasses.
San Marco, San Marco! You crow,
Imitating the boatmen calling
From the other side of the plaza,
Where the pigeons coo with their heavy stomachs.
Come on you two, Mum says, pose.
Ever confident, you sling your arm around my shoulders.
We look younger, fresher than we were,
Our eyes dance like the candles in the summer night.
Of you, and of Notre Dame,
Sat quietly on the Seine that
Whistles, begging for pennies for luck
And the I can promise you…
Your eyes are bluer than the midnight water
And they fix on me and smile.
Against the old church you seem smaller
And your broad hands impermanent.
The cameras flash and the mummers continue,
And you grab our father’s hand as you jump
from the boat, and as you swing from a lamppost,
the bell starts to chime, silencing you.