To A Sad Daughter

To A Sad Daughter

All night long the hockey pictures

gaze down at you

sleeping in your tracksuit.

Belligerent goalies are your ideal.

Threats of being traded

cuts and wounds

– all this pleases you.

“Oh my god!” you say at breakfast

reading the sports page over the Alpen

as another player breaks his ankle

or assaults the coach.

When I thought of daughters

I wasn’t expecting this

but I like this more.

I like all your faults

even your purple moods

when you retreat from everyone

to sit in bed under a quilt.

And when I say “like”

I mean of course “love”

but that embarasses you.

You who feel superior to black and white movies

(coaxed for hours to see Casablanca)

though you were moved

by Creatures from the Black Lagoon.

One day I’ll come swimming

beside your ship or someone will

and if you hear the siren

listen to it. For if you close your eyes

only nothing happens. You will never change.

I don’t care if you risk

your life to angry goalies

creatures with webbed feet.

You can enter their caves and castles

their glass laboratories. Just

don’t be fooled by anyone but yourself.

This is the first lecture I’ve given you.

You’re ‘sweet sixteen’ you said.

I’d rather be your closest friend

than your father. I’m not good at advice

you know that, but ride

the ceremonies

until they grow dark.

Sometimes you are so busy

discovering your friends

I ache with a loss

– but that is greed.

And sometimes I’ve gone

into my purple world

and lost you.

One afternoon I stepped

into your room. You were sitting

at the desk where I now write this.

Forsythia outside the window

and sun spilled over you

like a thick yellow miracle

as if another planet

was coaxing you out of the house

– all those possible worlds! –

and you, meanwhile, busy with mathematics.

I cannot look at Forsythia now

without loss, or joy for you.

You step delicately

into the wild world

and your real prize will be

the frantic search.

Want everything. If you break

break going out not in.

How you live your life I don’t care

but I’ll sell my arms for you,

hold your secrets for ever.

If I speak of death

which you fear now, greatly,

it is without answers,

except that each

one we know is

in our blood.

Don’t recall graves.

Memory is permanent.

Remember the afternoon’s

yellow suburban annunciation.

Your goalie

in his frightening mask

dreams perhaps

of gentleness.

– Michael Ondaatje


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