The Weight of the Baby
Marroning, Wellington Weir
I stay behind with the baby
while they check the baits—
my wife, my children. They are
that light skirting the shore.
My new son lounges in my arms,
staring at my face, which is
(like his own but less sweetly)
uneven with shadow and shine.
Gas hisses in the lamp’s gauze.
A sudden wind scours the weir
like a scoop net. Behind me,
the trees break out in tongues.
Sensing the soft grasp of sleep,
the child begins to struggle,
limbs erratic and ineffectual
as a marron marooned on its back.
‘Don’t be cross,’ I murmur,
hugging him, rocking him. ‘Hush.’
I am gentled from my gender,
staying back with the baby.
He settles and slips away.
His head becomes heavy,
like a melon, in the crook
of my arm. Light meshes
in his hair as if in a mantle.
Distant but distinct, I hear
my eldest son scoop and exclaim.
A scrabble of claws on wire.
The water is black but the sky
is spattered with stars.
I imagine the many rubies
of the marron’s torchlit eyes.
I watch my family, my loves,
move further into the darkness.
A mopoke cries from the forest.
I feel the weight of the baby.
I feel the weight but am light.
O Lord, my soul is very still,
quiet and still, even as an infant
asleep in his father’s arms.
He waves now without being told.
But what sense does he make of it,
my small son, when he sees me
drive daily out of his life? I blow
the horn, flash the lights and go.
What does he think? Does he feel it
as a desertion? A bewilderment?
Last night in my absence he told
his mother before going to sleep,
‘Daddy gone broom broom beep beep!’
It is thrilling to be so loved.
Hearing my step on the veranda
he bellows to Mum that I’m home
and races to the door to greet me.
To be so loved. It is thrilling.
Seeing me he bursts into welcome,
with glad prattle, great prancing
and that sheer shine on his face!
The Grasshopper Heart
That man with the cowboy hat and tan and tattoos
is holding his little white-skinned daughter
very gently in the shallow water. Now he is
zooming her along, but not too quickly
for fear of her fear. He tosses her up,
catches and hugs her, holds in check
the fierce tenderness that craves to crush her.
Her father. His wholly holy love. He is smiling
and I know his heart is like a grasshopper—
leaping and landing spring-loaded to leap again.
These four poems are reprinted from Andrew Lansdown’s book, Gestures of Love: The Fatherhood Poems (Wombat Books, 2013). Learn more about Andrew’s poetry on a website dedicated to his literary writings, www.andrewlansdown.com