From the Unconceived
Here are the daughters you permanently exiled
that night you didn’t let him pull your pants down
in your breath-hot postered bedroom,
and on those nights you stayed faithful,
and on the nights that you took the recommended precautions.
And there are the boys without whom your life is diminished,
just as hagfish are diminished for want of the sun
in their mile-deep trenches,
and without the tiniest sense of diminishment.
Behind them you can see your shadow-siblings,
the kin who could have sat in your saddle
on life’s swirling carousel;
the brothers you condemned to nothingness
at your own moment of conception
and your half-jealous sisters who never knew air.
They queue forever in the drizzle, here,
just the other side of possibility,
loitering in front of the uncles and aunts
who would have coddled you, who would have cosseted you,
and then come the Grands, the Grands and the Grands,
in stranger fashions,
in greyer get-ups,
the further along that line-up you look.
They are the fruit of your family’s lost branches,
that would have hung on the limbs that never quite made it
out of the trunk,
on those offshoots that were cancelled by a caught train,
or by hesitation,
or by the right word spoken in haste.
This is their eternity:
their fidgety file receding
into the July twilight,
this gravel footpath in the funfair’s mingled glows.
Those near the front
can watch from behind the barrier
the bright machines go round and round
that whip, that jig, that whirligig,
that flash patterns in arrays of gaudy bulbs,
in yellows, in glinting primaries,
all slick with summer’s sweet precipitation.
They pump their absurd music out:
carnival tinkling waltzes, hurdy-gurdy tunes,
two-note klaxons when they start and slow,
the passengers and engines,
the mingled shrieks and diesel sounds.
Call this waiting oblivion maybe,
but let it be said before you slip from this dream,
that it’s not quite complete oblivion.
For they know you’ve seen them,
you Angela, you;
three-quarters dozing in first class,
Irish Tatler spread over your bottle-green sweatshirt
as your hair of auburn, murmurs and dusk
is flicked by the wind through the carriage window.
They know you’ve glimpsed their extending queue,
in your lap-top, in Insomnia in the Huguenot Quarter,
through those flickering electric traces
in the second before the screen goes blank,
and behind your reflection
when you clip mint from the window-box,
pucker-lipped, a tentative finger splaying the sprigs,
at the bright edges of your sleeping mask
when your eyes snap open at four
and in the momentary smudge that occurs,
all merge, all motion,
in all the fine and blended colours
when you turn away from the mirror quickly.