A Poppy Prayer
for Thomas Rogerson Hunter
This is the picture I have of you, impossibly
tall, leg bone knit to arm bone and a head
hard as a melon eclipsing the sun.
(In this peek-a-boo Northern English light, you are the sun,
are my four-year-old concept of sky).
It must be summer: This is the season
grandparents and cousins appear,
three birthday parties for Emma in July.
Grannie is loud with her hands, throws these upward,
releasing invisible balloons and confetti,
her secret laughter at the rainbow
only she among adults sees. We, young daughters,
dance in her gold dust, our leap-year of reunions
ring around the roses, pockets full of posies,
hush now, hush now, we all fall…
A wild beast growls and snaps at us
with teeth he can also smile. His stay in his head.
We scream between terror and delight,
two words the container of our existence: Don’t stop!
This is the picture I have of you, framed in black
on my mantelpiece: Patriarch of 11 Pinfold Lane
on his determined way to the green, impossibly
tall, leg bone knit to arm bone, fists rigid at the sides
as if braced for what will come.
Never one to blink, you stare it down anyway,
ready soldier. Atten-tion! Hup!
The wild beast growls and snaps at the camera
with teeth he can also smile.
On your head a fedora, in your hands leather
driving gloves like a whip coiled to stave off slowness,
time, age, these nuisances which hinder.
Blast! Away with you, mortal shell!
I do now explode impatiently and splendidly
like a rocket straight up.
For this I know:
I was always destined for glory.