ON BEING BORN ON GOOD FRIDAY 55 YEARS AGO A POEM

 

55 (x 2)

 

Nothing could have prepared me

For being born

In Montreal, not even the long

18th century, the little ice age,

Or the summer my father learned

 

To swim and dive. As stoics

Enjoy saying, ad nauseum,

Death is like thinking

Of all the years before birth.

It barely registers and cannot hurt.

 

What doesn’t hurt doesn’t make you

Exist, or their other idea, that earth

Mingles Caesar and commoner alike.

It’s a strange comfort to be told

Your time preparing to arrive

 

Is what death is – so we come

From death; then birth is stealing

From the dead world? This is not

What I want to go on about

In this prattling meandering form

 

In which I choose to materialise

Before you, which is what poems are,

A way to teleport back and forth –

In time and space, the zoom call

Of their day. All early arts are replaced

 

Eventually by a better way to sing

Happy birthday or choose a hot date,

Or haggle over shares of some corporate

Entity, itself a metaphor. I was born

On Good Friday in Montreal,

 

Very small. The doctor told my parents

I would not survive the Easter holidays,

In all likelihood. How this was felt,

Or understood, I was told later.

I was placed in an incubator,

 

And my parents, in their twenties,

Were sore afraid. They looked at me

Like a warped and hairy monkey,

As small as a baby bird fallen out

Of some high nest. I survived,

 

And this was described, invariably,

As a miracle, which it was, since

Medicine was less advanced back then.

I don’t feel any grateful surge

Towards the nurses, orderlies,

 

Or recall my mother’s gloved rubber arm

Caressing my wrinkled, sapiens’ brow.

Somehow, the before and after both remain

Beyond recall, nestled in the space

Some refer to as liminal – a threshold,

 

Where death and birth are as close as twins,

Neither subordinate to the other,

A sister and brother, curled up

In each other’s arms, not tied to the other,

But not separate either, a perfect alliance,

 

And no one was any the wiser

As to which would slip back or away,

And whether birth or death

Would be the child they’d meet that day.

This is fanciful, a narrative arc;

 

Is there a life spark? A moment, a bang?

We know there is conception, or is that, also

Just a myth of science? Contact happens,

It has to, for various materials to coalesce.

Items in a basket jostle, never fuse,

 

But life is made from molecules that care

Enough about connection to go the extra mile;

But it is probably all automatic, not driven

By a passionate thought. How could it not be,

Though? In some deep smallest place,

 

That some contorted collider will soon uncover,

Might there be a monkey tinier than me, even,

The fuse we mention in poetry, moving

Planets, flowers, light and love? Dante

Wanted to locate this tiniest factor in love itself,

 

So love moves love, and love revolves, as love

Too evolves, into a later amalgamation.

I am confused, because I am speaking from

The moment of least knowledge, the ledge

Of the shelf, the interior that is outside, barely.


It’s embarrassing, so intimate, but you could say

Remote. Going back to more homely facts,

My father had a beard, and

Looked like Fidel Castro. My mom drove

A red sportscar, had a beehive hairdo (entre acte).

 

It was baseball season or would be. In a year Expo

'67 would see the geodesic dome of Buckminster

Fuller built close to our home;

What would be our home, six years later;

The jumble of pieces of a story

 

That fades constantly, as I think more and more

On what it could mean to have gratitude

For existence. Do I thank lust, desire, divinity?

A gentle embrace that went too far in that red car?

No judgment, but I managed to get more years

 

Than some emperors, some empires.

Birth never requires an equal magnitude to impress,

We would be blessed however long we endured,

We never know the span to come,

We start across a bridge being built, that finishes

 

Off into the fog, incomplete, without a sense of

If Isambard Kingdom Brunel engineered it –

None of this is that day, the careful placing of my body

By some unknown medical worker, at the General

Hospital, into the plastic, or glass, receptacle, to keep

 

That tremulous still-growing creature in motion.

I do not think of the commotion in the disturbed air,

The motes in the bars of sun, any more than I remember

How Brutus saw his blade shine like a porpoise in water

Before he decided to end a tyranny to create a new war.

 

GOOD FRIDAY 2021

Comments

Janet Vickers said…
what a beautiful poem. Thank you.
Janet Vickers said…
This comment has been removed by the author.

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