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April 2015, vol 11 no 1

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Claire Everett

Hand-me-downs

for Owen

an old pencil box
engraved and re-lacquered
another heirloom
all the lovelier
in your hands

Half my lifetime ago, your grandmother bounced you on her knee and sang into that smiling self still learning how to sit, mum-mum-mum-mum-mum. Your eyes blue as the May morning that had filled me with the ache of you making that long journey into my arms, danced at her babbling, and perhaps a little more, at any slim chance of swiping at her glasses.

"Don't let your first word be Dadda," she said, "They all say Dadda. It's Mummy with the aching back and the wakeful nights that won't ever stop because before she knows it you'll be old enough to be breaking hearts."

And so began your love of words. I spooned you the best I had and soon you were feeding yourself, tucking in like a trencherman, with a pelican bib to catch what you missed. You learned of a hunger that can never be filled. You remembered what I told you about getting your feet under many different tables.

sharing a meal
from your own kitchen
a host
of new flavours
I can barely pronounce

And somehow, somewhere during that time when only my days could make ends meet, you progressed from stick figures to three-point perspective. You say that it was me who showed you how to draw what's there, to look for the light and shade, to go gently, gently. And it is I who now sits at the artist's elbow, mesmerised, as if the leaves and tendrils of a time-lapse spring were being rendered in graphite.

I see you, far ahead of me on the road, your shape all but lost to heat-shimmer and I follow, happily and heavily shod with every dream I had for you, without hope or desire to catch you up, just fast enough to keep you faintly etched on that sun-blushed horizon.

tracing the line back
to that first stubby crayon
I placed in your hand
child, you taught me
everything I know


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