Canto CCLXXXVII

The six foot skinhead, sporting Millwall tats,
sits on his own, minding an empty pram
inside the waiting room where rowdy tots

are building creaking Legoland kingdoms
then swatting them back down like oldschool gods.
He’s turning pages with his calloused thumbs,

a picture book with no big fancy words
about a panda bear at a circus,
which softens his hard man image a tad,

though after he plants a sloppy kiss
onto the cheek his beautiful brown grandson,
I get the feeling he’d still kick my arse,

it’s just that nowadays, he’s got a reason.

Canto CCXLVIII

Lengthy stays in hospitals can change
your previous perceptions of the real,
for instance, since we’ve returned to the fringe

of Zone 2, I can’t help but quietly feel
that this town has been replaced with another,
alike in each conceivable detail,

but different. We stay indoors and recover
our sense of place by focusing on home,
the trusty rusting bathtaps, old quilt covers,

reconvene a private sphere of warmth.
Good job we had the radiators bled
before the passing of the cruellest month,

May finds my two girls sleeping and well fed.

Canto CCXLVII

…and just like that, we’re back. The hospital
is once again the house upon the hill
and we are but a quaint suburban couple

toting their newborn, fat cheeked baby child,
so unremarkable, nothing of note.
We take our sleeps in tiny shots between meals.

We pull the blinds down, flutter out a vote.

Canto CCXLVI

We wake not knowing what the hour is,
nor the one hour of sleep that came before
that felt like a decade, as if we’d missed

the world torn up then lovingly restored.
Our own names feel like welts between our gums,
our old lives shed and crumpled on the floor.

You take our little girl into your arms
and guide her to your breast, as slowly, health
trickles between the two of you and warmth

becomes your mutually protective shell.
The act of waking up has now become
the leaving behind of our cast off selves

to remember the selves we have become.

Canto CCXLV

This is the day our girl came down to play
from upstairs where monotone monitors beep
their minimalist electro lullaby,

where nurses rotate for changes and feeds,
their faces shuffled between dad’s and mum’s,
who sometimes found a stark, uneasy peace,

during our AM insomniac turns.
It would have been a boon those times to know
that the day when you would finally return,

was the same day when your mother’s milk flowed,
those precious millilitres finality came,
a small creek in our day to day facades

as something pure spilled from our souls’ dark homes.

Canto CCXLIII

Outside the double glazed window, just across,
from where my baby girl snoozes away,
pumped full of milk and gripping my fingers,

the Power Station almost fades to grey,
within the week long, secular deluge.
I forget what it’s like to walk in rain—

the seven days we’ve spent under this roof.

Canto CCXLII

I take the trek up just one flight of stairs,
scrub my hands and arms and walk on through
to find you strung with drip lines and thick wires.

Your readings have been good, steady but slow.
You’re doing your bit, under watchful eye
of surrogate Titas—Filipinos

and Irish nurses too. You sleep as I
take you into my arms and whisper how
your mother’s getting strong as well. Your cries

are easily sated, though my own
still bubble upwards, lava like, sudden—
and though you’re barely under seven pounds,

your humble heft helps me to hold it down,
maintain composure, keep the long sob in.
Your short vowels hold back pity’s pale poison,

the sweet song of the smallest violin.

Canto CCXXXI

Next time we head into this hospital
will be the day it all comes to a head,
when you go from the warm den, to portal,

to ever doting, archetype Godhead.
I will keep on in my usual role—
utterer of “yes dear”s by the bed;

the spare, spare tire; another hand to hold.
These are the last days of our coupledom,
the twilight of our cosy twosome world,

our Christian names traded for Dad and Mum.

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