“Who would give me a map to find you, the paper / superimposed with a constantly moving ‘X’?”
-From “Father-Son Conversation“
Malcolm. Professor. Triple. Dos. So many x-es, so many ex-es. Expatriate. Expletive. Ex-father. Ex-son.
Two lines, for a moment, cross. This is how the Romans made ten.
In Arabic numerals, it takes two digits: father, one; son, nil. Zero is a placeholder: round, complete, and gone. A circle describes its absence.
It has been ten years since our son was born and died, and not a day goes by that he is not a felt part of me, like the fingers of my two hands.
Why I Should Be Over It By Now
(ten reasons for ten years)
- Because it was a long time ago.
- Because, after all, he was very small.
- Because hawthorn blooms a lace cover for its thorns.
- Because many couples don’t have children (yet, ever).
- Because you had choices (not choices).
- Because beech-leaf orange rages the valley unchecked.
- Because you look best in photos when you smile.
- Making overrated is good sense, because.
- Because who can remember his name?
- Because of the wonderful things he does.
The first snow of winter has dusted our part of England, and I am sitting by the fire, warming up after a long country walk. To prepare for a poetry reading this afternoon in London, I leaf through my new book, the one I read from all last year. Unlike the previous slim pamphlet, it contains no mention of James, our son. No dedication. Not a single poem.
Cognates of Grief
Kobus, Koos, Jago,
Jamma, Diegu, Joggi,
Ya’aqov, Yaakov, Iacobus,
Iacomus, Jakobus, Iakov,
Jakobe, Köbe, Iago,
Jaime, Diego, Santiago,
Yasha, Séamas, Siâms,
Yakobo, Jems, Jacques,
Jakku, Jaak, Jake,
Jack, Jim, Jimbo,
Jimmy, Jamie, Jay,
first, only, baby,
We are in Edinburgh for his tenth birthday, visiting friends. It has become a special place to me, my most-visited city outside of London in the Old World.
I only know a handful of lullabies, but I sang them to James in his final moments. After the doctor confirmed that his heart had stopped, all I could hear was the refrain:
Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry.
Carry the lad who’s born to be King
Over the sea to Skye.
9 — years of love (in a world in need of love).
8 — Acht and Uno (and infinity).
7 — Lucky (and miraculous).
6 — For idealists (ideal father, ideal son).
5 — It is complicated. It gets better.
4 — Art, compassion, courage.
3 — My inner life is my real life. In it, I carry my son.
2 — I wash my hands as though life depends on it.
1 — Compassion, poignancy — how much everything matters…
0 — The essence of parenthood — that pure and selfless love.