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In an ecstasy of expectancy

one cigarette chasing another,

pacing from here to maternity

with a fellow debutant father.

A moonlit camaraderie

until the breaking of morning and water

and the end of our social lives.

It was time. Time for support

and I sought something solid to cling to:

your mother gave me her hand.

She was ever resourceful and thoughtful

and didn’t swear quite so much back then.

Bastard! she hurled. Not in your direction;

at me, at God, at the female condition.

It’s a boy! The midwife spoke with decision:

crimson-faced from the struggle you’d risen

with a head slightly misshapen.

I quickly made a sign of the cross

and expressed my consternation.

She shrugged, that’s not so unusual

and he’ll soon conform to type.

Still I thought we might ask an aunt to knit

balaclavas in claret and blue.

The placenta, however, was pleasingly striped

in maroon and white like the poles

displayed outside barbers’ shops.

I thought of something for the weekend,

but it was Wednesday: too early or too late.

You were wrapped in a towel and handed

to me while your mother was being attended.

We called you Jack, had your name on a tag

and I wondered what position you’d have –

up front, midfield or at the back.

So long as you weren’t a Birmingham fan –

I could cope with anything but that.

Then she wanted you weighed, I pulled back the towel

and the scales fell as my eyes lit

upon feminine bits. Not a boy at all, not a sign of it.

I wondered if to play dumb or snitch,

but nothing had happened on my watch,

I hadn’t moved from off this spot

and couldn’t have got you lost or swapped.

So I spoke and showed and the midwife froze,

there was a pregnant pause…and we roared

as she humbled an apology. We laughed

like it could happen to anybody;

and you were gone, gone without a cheerio,

you had your twenty minute cameo

then back to the substitutes bench.

I don’t think about you all that often,

just wheel out the tale on the odd occasion.

Cheap laughter – at your expense, at mine, at hers;

it doesn’t really matter, I’m that kind of father:

wholly superficial and insensitive,

mocking everyone for nobody’s benefit.

Be grateful you didn’t inherit it.

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