Sunday, March 3, 2013

My Daughter and the Seagull's Cry

The cries come sharp, deep as the night and bright;                                    
they tear the dark in my ear. It is the gulls                                               
that have come up from the inlet through the still air,
the first proprietors of the daylight. The cries                                        
rush out through the single narrow way of all their throats.
My daughter's favourite among her first words:
seagull. Then I seagull. She remembered
the white-winged ones that came clamouring and flocking
where she stood on the sand at the sea edge. The sweet
crystalline cry poured from her as she went up
on her toes and flung her arms about and gull after gull
arrived and circled close and cried into the circle
of soft lightning they had made around her.  
My daughter’s first nightmare: standing at the crib bars,
eyes fixed wide yet still dreaming, not knowing
where she was, repeating again and again
her bottomless cry. The cry as full of address
as the cries of the lovers in the next apartment
calling out wordless across the sudden distances,
a calling almost unearthly. As full of address
as the final cry of abandonment on the cross.
The gulls’ cries come sharp, and gulls come wheeling
up from the water as if on reconnaissance
and searching for what they have lost, not knowing
what it is they have lost though they carry it
as they perform every wing-thrust, every glide.
They fly their torsos, beaks, eyes; they are alive and yet  
they are desperate ghosts, their cries scavenging cries.
They wake her now, one cry then another
like wild beings in the room, and immediately
my daughter shouts seagull, as if a dream
has been waiting within her to put the word in her mouth
at just this instant. In her two-year-old voice
she takes her ecstatic run out to meet
the gull’s sound with her word and runs out into all
the words that will ever come to find her,
even the word that is her own name. Like a hand
through a window, they will come to snatch her away.
The sea waves will arrive, hushed and radiant,
rolling her first cry in their foam. The flock’s cries
will collect up the world, opening it like a door.

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