A Daughter’s First Term at University
You’ve said good-bye. She’s standing in the car-park.
You know there are mallards on that pool in the quadrangle.
A Virginia Creeper sprawls crimson by her balcony.
Later a heron will visit those fields beyond suburbs
but now she has no map to decipher tomorrow,
the clock-face is unyielding, the brochure’s out of date, she must
invent a city from scratch and fix names on to strangers.
You know all this. The windscreen-wiper doesn’t clear your tears.
Phone-calls with costs reversed will assure you that certain
seminars are fun, friends have been found. The fact remains –
the one whom you loved as an everyday presence has been
elected citizen of a world you’ll never inhabit.
She’s left, rightly so, to gain where others have given,
she’s cut the cord, packed her bags, embarked on adulthood,
leaving a shadowy stair-well humming with memories
up which you’ll clamber trying to tune into the past.
When she returns, the week-day thrown open in welcome
will lead again to the stunted monolith, the marsh with its orchids.
From time to time you’ll stand together on the same
light bridge, high-arched, under which the long-legged
ibises strut with ludicrous, delicate care.
You’ll watch with pride the way her hands brush dirt off strange
and gleaming ores. You’ll be given fragmentary
and garbled accounts of patterns made, unwoven,
forged again in distant centuries and ivory rooms.
You’ll pay attention but she’s gone so far you’ll never quite
catch up that unfamiliar figure on the changing fields.
from A Puzzling Harvest: Collected Poems 1955-2000 (Anvil 2002), © Harry Guest 2002, used by permission of the author and the publisher