The first time I read the poem below a scene from the past flashed up in my mind: a winter day which my then-preschool children spent playing Ewok, which translated into them marching around the house/forest with yardsticks as hiking sticks. My son was Master Logray and my daughter was Teebo, names and roles taken directly from a seriously cheesy VHS TV series called Ewoks (which I probably found for a quarter at a garage sale). What I remember most is my daughter’s bright eyes as she tromped around the house after her older brother, who was always kind to her.
My children rarely fought when they were little, but when they did, it always troubled me deeply. If the battle went on too long, I would tell them Listen to me. You have to be kind to each other, because someday I’ll be gone, and your dad will be gone, and it will be just the three of you to watch over each other. This is kind of a horrible thing to say, now that I look back on it, but it’s also kind of true. Which might be why reading this beautiful poem brought an instant lump to my throat.
– Sinead Morrissey
I have paused in the door jamb’s shadow to watch you
playing Shop or Cliff! or Café or Under-the-sea
among the flotsam of props on our tarmacked driveway.
All courtship. All courtesy.
At eight and six, you have discovered yourselves friends,
at last, and this the surprise the summer
has gifted me, as if some
had let loose a kingfisher . . .
you whirl and pirouette, as if in a ballet
take decorous turns, and pay for whatever you need
with a witch’s currency:
grass cuttings, sea glass, coal, an archaeopteryx
of glued kindling from the fire basket.
You don two invisible outsize overcoats – for love?
For luck? And jump with your eyes shut.
And I can almost see it thicken between you –
your sibling-tetheredness, an umbilicus,
fattened on mornings like this as on a mother’s blood,
loose, translucent, not yet in focus
but incipient as yeast and already strong enough
to knock both of you off your balance
when you least expect it, some afternoon after work
one call from a far-flung city and, look,
all variegated possibles – lovers, kids, apartments –
whiten into mist; the rope is flexing,
tugging you close, and you come, obedient
children that you are, back to this moment,
staggering to a halt and then straightening,
grown little again inside your oversize coats and shoes
and with sea glass still to arrange,
but without me watching.