Poetry

TO DORA

Little child,
Little imagined child,
You began to have names –
Not that we could
Agree on names. But I was
Making lists. Like a botanist
Come too late
In history – picture
A new species
With enough intensity
And perhaps it will come to exist.

So, little Dora
(I liked the name Dora)
It was around those
Four letters
That your picture cohered.
Your mother and I
Were more excited than scared.
Turned out
I was glad to live –
Turned out life was something
I wanted to give.
You, Dora.

From reluctant subscription
To a passionate yes –
That is what it meant.
What you meant. And
Opening myself to your judgement –
Wanting to get it
Right for you –
Quickened my forgiveness.
Trying to figure
What was best, plot a course without
Benefit of instruments.
Goodwill our only guiding truth
In a sea of hypotheticals – and
Since when has goodwill been any use?
So I forgave my parents
As I prepared
To do my best by you.

Dora, you have changed me
Without ever coming to be.
And now that you will not –
Now that you’re lost
In the limbo of thought,
Left incorporeal –
I hope you know, little unborn girl,
That you do not go unloved.

You’ve inverted the bond
Between father and daughter –
It is you who have taught me,
You who have dipped me
In baptismal water.
Like a fool adventurer
After his ocean
Or his civilisation of gold,
My discoveries are all incidental –
The wisdom
I must settle for
While you, my prize, my light,
Prove our wills chimerical.

Go gently in limbo,
Into that unrealised night.
I will keep you
In my heart, Dora,
Even if not in sight.