When her brothers come home from school,
all afternoon brag and shoving, she smiles
and climbs the narrow stairs to her room
to put on her dancing shoes.
They are silver with heels too far for her father,
she is four, but someone kind gave them to her,
and I see they help her win something,
make way for the girl coming on.
Her blooming flutters in my heart
wings beating something like worry
into the centre of my organisation,
and something like joy, a fragile joy
at putting something so kind and gentle into play,
I know that I am smitten –
and the rage she can muster,
her little fist thumping on the table!
On each of those school afternoons
whatever she is wearing, well, “it goes with my dancing shoes”,
and so they tap under her feet until her mother runs her bath
and tearfully, Poppy surrenders the shoes.
One Saturday afternoon she steps outside
to climb the garden steps in her heels,
my lady of the lawn
whiling away the minutes until tea.
One hand held up
into the adult airspace by her left ear,
practising composure with her right,
she spins and totters onto the tennis court.
For what purpose does she require
this open stage? Is she signalling anything to her audience –
or does she simply track the whirling patterns
I made by spraying bleach to kill weeds?
Does she leap the lowered net
whose correct height she knows
divides her mother and father,
winner from loser?
All I know is that the pigeons in the acer applaud her,
and the labernum shake their yellow curls
and for now I think this is enough,
her world is small enough.