Devon, PA. This week marks my daughter’s third birthday. As a way of tossing a little Front Porch confetti her way, I reprint here “A Prayer for Livia Grace at Christmas,” which originally appeared in Modern Age (Spring 2008).
There’s little room left in this house for poetry,
Or in this world for any lasting language.
The managers and sales reps in the office
Who’ve ticketed their holidays are childless,
And looking toward five days of sun and liquor.
They know nothing of old books or a young daughter.
But somehow near me sleeps an infant daughter
Who grows still to the cradle sounds of poetry,
Eyelids dropped in the promise of sleep’s liquor.
It charms her, yet she knows nothing of language;
Nor did I, in a way, when I was childless,
Preoccupied with filling another office
Than fatherhood. Now crowded in my office,
A crib and tall chest of drawers for my daughter
Remind me that this empty room sat childless
Except for those squat ink-littered sheets of poetry,
When “child” was just a word and my child language,
Which I would write and read at night with liquor.
Now she’s born, we have little time for liquor
And my desk’s crammed in a corner of the office,
My papers lost beneath the brighter language
Of cardboard colored alphabets for my daughter.
I’m sure I wrote a different kind of poetry
When all my hours were filled though I was childless.
The TV news shows that, because they’re childless,
Exercise, and avoid cigarettes and liquor,
Modern consumers live a life of poetry:
Controlled and self-absorbed as fits the office
Of sonnets or sestinas; their only daughter
An iPod or such ephemeral techno-language.
I pray, my daughter, speak another language,
That in the richest sense you not be childless,
Your every act a kind of lasting daughter
More beautiful than bored clerks at their liquor.
Though they find no room for it at the office,
May you crowd your small corridors with poetry.
My daughter’s teething and needs her gums rubbed with liquor,
Which stops my language, calls me from my office.
I go. May I have more of this child, less poetry.