Old Story

Posted on Sep 13, 2017 | 0 comments

Old Story


I was having my first – you’d been on duty all night, but

there you are, dressing gown, long snake of dark plait,

ghosting up and down until my son is born.  Eight pounds,

healthy, you say approvingly.  Boys are good.


Nurses straighten their back when you walk by and I,

playing guitar past Plunket bedtime, singing Blue Smoke

when you walk in – quick quick – guitar gone, baby in cot,

strong tea and home-made ginger biscuits out.


You marry, live in a flat out back of his parent’s house.

No bathroom.  Mother, good Anglican, won’t have you inside,

your dark skin might contaminate her bathroom.

You shower at a friend’s place.  It will be all right, you say.


You are pregnant.  You are happy.  Everything will be all right.

You go into labour.  After twenty-four hours they ring.

The specialist is playing golf – won’t come till he’s won.

Finally, with an impatient thrust of forceps, you have a daughter.


I go with you to the doctor to find out why no more babies.

You need a son, if you have a son it will be all right, you say.

The doctor says you will never conceive again.  We walk away.

It will be all right, you say, it will be all right.


Now from the wall, your eyes watch as your daughter

drinks wine and says how much she loves you.  She cries.

I think of that mother and that doctor, wonder if they

took a long time to die and if anyone held their hand.


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