0164in Mind - Poem by Michael Shepherd
It’s only now, only now, that I remember, that I can see,
how you made your presence felt so often;
so long unlooked for, seeing only absence, never believing presence;
for in the subtlety of your wisdom, the wisdom of your subtlety,
you leave reminders of that presence in that secret place
where it’s as safe as childhood happiness
forgotten, then remembered…
for you speak a closer language to a child,
closer than the growing child comes to believe.
When was the first time - now I can remember who you are,
when you first spoke to me?
Wasn’t it that day when I could toddle unsteadily
but with wide open eyes, where the lion’s head
poured water from its mouth into the basin?
and in the paving of the bricks – which anyone could see –
you left me that private, secret message,
knowing that I’d not notice, (so I’d not forget) ,
until one day it swam out of memory?
For this is your so secret, open generosity: you leave every one of us
this secret message: that moment when we knew
that we knew something certain – and yet,
did not know what that something was?
And then, that time after a year or two – a lifetime for a child –
when you announced your presence by your so painful absence,
and I made that solemn decision for a four-year-old,
never to trust a grown-up ever again; not because
of being a helpless child – but because there was that in me
which knew when you were there, and when you weren’t?
Then you left so many messages I did not need to heed
-or so it seemed, because they were so obvious –
and only in your absence was your presence felt:
the day after a gale, the ozone of the beach, the sea
now brown but calming, seaweed salty on the stones;
the field of flowers and dewdrops –the moths in ecstasy;
and in that silent glade of woodland, as if you had made that space
between the trees, to leave a message loud and clear: that
you live in space, so visibly invisible…
then later, on the tennis court, green grass just newly cut,
that exhilarating smell; lime-white lines just newly marked;
and when the ball hit the centre of the racquet, just so,
I missed your message, in the will to win…
And then, grown up: how are we to know – until we know –
your messages left all around, in so many places, all so different?
When, like the unicorn, we know we’ll never see you,
yet know we know that in our minds, you live?
That single horn upon its clear-eyed brow,
that dips in recognition of innocence,
how could we miss your message, so gently elegant,
one-pointed image of yourself, in mind?
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