Posted here with the poet’s permission:
An Ancient Child
The doctor’s waiting room, the quiet flip
of magazine pages. My daughter’s right lung
still crackling, and I wish for recovery
and punctual doctors. Looking at the floral patterns
of china I’ll never buy, when suddenly my daughter laughs,
holds up for me to see spread across
two pages, a photo of a black child left to die
…where it fell. White eyes,
canyon cheeks, protruding teeth. She sees
my shock and says, ‘The face is funny.
Like something from Hallowe’en.’
I look again, the image so intimate,
if I lean too close I’ll smell decay.
Hear wind rattle the shacks left standing,
feel a foreign sun’s heat baking
the skin draped over a small skeleton.
An ancient child feeding birds and insects
…and photographer’s lenses. If only
I could reach in, feel the rubber
moulded into a face falling in on itself
like an old grave. Find the edge of the mask
my daughter saw and peel it off.
…Expose the child smiling
underneath, waiting to say,
…‘See, I tricked you.’
I enjoyed “An Ancient Child” in The Bridge that Carries the Road which was a Governor General’s Award finalist. I also especially liked “Mr. Phillips”, “First Day of School”, and the two poems that referred to Solomon’s Seal, one of my favourite plants in my garden. I look forward to reading more of her poetry in Where Sound Pools.