It is Poppy’s birthday today; she is one. She has eaten her first ever slice of cake, and been given a beautiful dress to wear on Christmas Day. This time last year she was hours old, and the Western General Hospital (just off the M4) was snowbound. When Clara and I drove to the hospital late on the night of December 19th the temperature was minus 11 degrees centigrade.
[Poppy is the only one of our family who is a Moonraker, which is a colloquial term for anyone born in the county of Wiltshire.]
Here’s a poem I wrote about Poppy’s arrival:
A night detour to avoid the steep sides of the downs
Blindfolded by your mother
you do not see the high moon,
whole villages behind pickets of wasted trees,
their captive churches. The white road
slow between the darkness and the Christmas lights.
Without God or fear we carry you,
and each mile brings us closer
to a motorway junction, the
black hospital approaches swept and salted,
its illuminated helipad blinking red for blood.
December’s morning start;
Your light, poured cold
like milk onto the floor.
A nurse smears gel against
the nub end of a sonicaid
and probing Clara finds your sign.
Be-dum be-dum be-dum.
Unmistakeably your sign.
The time has come to spring you,
my green heart!
Whatever names I might give myself
there is nothing I can do yet.
At the window I stand and watch
a service vent pour
plumes of gas and air
into the world
and dancing unboned
On the motorway cars slip
like winter birds, in flights,
and one by one,
be-dum be-dum be-dum,
wearing their own grime,
each one a life doing its best
to get somewhere
on this beautiful morning,
on every morning until you die.