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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