It is said that the philtrum, or indentation between the centre of the nostrils
and the lip, is caused by the finger of the angel Gabriel as he comforts
each child on his or her entrance into the world.
Sssh. My finger on your lips
and my finger tracing your tears
is not quite enough
to shut you up
as you whimper,
as you sob out your terror
at these strange shores you’ve surfaced on, dripping.
It’s as if you can already sense the barbarians
that lurk behind bushes,
at the head of the classroom,
like wraiths down back alleyways,
behind a certain percentage of neighbourly faces.
God knows how many times I’ve been through this.
Right now you’re just a bundle of futures,
all of them featuring whiteness, sneezes, somebody’s hands,
alarms that scream for attention,
stray light, sleep’s mud bath,
a corn-coloured dress among the barley,
a piano, abandonment, light collapsing.
Let’s get it clear from day one that you’re here for life.
All that’s uncertain is the long or the short of it.
And may you not leave as you entered,
in a hospital ward in the dead of night
after panting and hard labour…
Hush. Stop whining now.
It’s just headlights slanting through the window,
the night-nurse yawning on her rounds.
A door slams in the corridor. Machines beep.