To have a child, as you know well, is to have

someone always with you – their shadow,

their echo, their breathing – whatever

has happened, whatever may happen.

To have a daughter is to shape the future.


When we lived in a Victorian third floor

attic flat, that had been the nursery

and the children’s bedrooms, and the trees,

planted when the house was built, touched the panes,

and you were only a few weeks old

fifty years ago now, I began

a poem with this title — inspired

by Yeat’s poem ‘A Prayer For My Daughter:

‘Once more the wind is howling, and half hid

Under this cradle-hood and coverlid

My child sleeps on’ – when the Black & Tan War

raged, rampaged:  houses shelled and burned.

A first time father in his fifties,

he wished his daughter a modest beauty,

a becoming wit, and a good marriage!


It was a gentle, English May, and Wilson

was keeping us out of Vietnam.

I was a young man proud and fearful

of fatherhood – unmastered in either

the grandeur or simplicity of words.

All I could think to wish for you was health.

The poem stalled, was left unfinished, lost.


A few days old, your daughter lay in her crib,

in another Victorian house.

Outside the snow continued to fall

in that provincial city, slowing traffic,

drifting in gardens. Across an ocean

one of the worst earthquakes on record

razed the flimsy houses of the poor.

As you entered the room talking – wittily,

kindly, hopefully – she turned her nascent head

in your direction, hearing that sound

she had heard forever.




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  1. #1 by Ashen Venema - May 26th, 2017 at 11:35

    Heartening. Not many daughters have a prayer written for them by their father. A little jealous here 🙂

  2. #2 by Mary Clark - May 27th, 2017 at 23:30

    Lovely. Grandeur and simplicity, I guess that’s love too.

  3. #3 by Catherine Reynolds - June 6th, 2017 at 13:03

    A beautiful and heartfelt expression of love, ‘to have a child is to have someone always with you’. A sentiment I truly embrace. xx

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