The Cry

The child woke to a cry, not his.
It came from beyond: a cry
of the absolute night. But it wasn’t
a ghost. It wasn’t a beast.
It wasn’t a truck or a train. It was
a closer cry, of something like pain,
deep-fetched, both pushing and dragging,
torn, with its long-straggling, humanoid roots
protesting, from a soil that clogged and clung
and was reluctant to let it be born,
breathe air, take flight.
Perhaps some, even most, of the cry
agreed, with a lullaby croon
or wheedle, preferring to sleep,
or to die. But the rest of the cry
had put up a fight against itself:
an urgent, delirious skirmish.
Which it must win. Which it did,
with a short-lasting whimper
of triumph and release.
In the peace that followed,
the child lay awake, unable to explain
why he was stirred by a thing
so ugly, so sad and so frightening;
nor why he wanted to hear it again.

from The Curiosities, unpublished poems, © Christopher Reid 2013, used by permission of the author.

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