The Child

We fell in love when we were eight,
our child was born when we were nine:
a tiny thing with gnarled black teeth,
a rough grey beard and rosy cheeks.

It grew up to keep a hive of imps,
behind the shack where it lived alone;
it said their honey made for healthy skin
and bottled it in jars from bins,
and stacked it up in racks of gold.

Then it heard about the gorgons
who, shunned and ugly, cry for love
with every mouth of their writhing heads
and never know its gentle touch,
as they ever-spin in loneliness.

And every night it combed its beard
and carefully washed its lovely skin
and brushed its tar-black teeth, and felt
ashamed to know such suffering
and turn away like any coward,
while it piled up facial honey.

One market day it sold it all
and even tried to sell the imps.
It bought a rose in a purple pot,
a box of chocolates called Romance
and a wedding ring of real gold,
then headed for the station.

We used to laugh that if the gorgon
ever got to see it coming,
with its hopeless smile, its rose bush and its chocs,
she’d hide until it went away.
We’d imagine it asking for directions
and shake our heads in mock despair.

But that was many years ago
and now a silence stands here all the time,
like something died and the fault was ours,
and every day we have to pass
that awful shack and the burned-out hive.

What use is a stinking gorgon anyway?
It is us our baby loves, not some thing.
Please tell us, do you have some news?
We’re frightened and we want it home;
but only if it comes alone.