Six Children

‘Though unmarried I have had six children’

                                                                                    Walt Whitman


The first woman I ever got with child wore calico

In Carolina. She was hoeing beans; as a languorous breeze

I caressed her loins, until her hoe lay abandoned in the furrow.


The second was braving the tumultuous seas that encircle

This fish-shaped isle; by the time a sudden riptide tore

Her from my grasp, she had known the full power of Paumanok.


One matron I waylaid – or was it she who waylaid

Me? – on a tram that shook and rattled and

Rang from Battery Park to Washington Heights and back.


O Pocahontas! You died as Rebecca Rolfe, and are buried

In Gravesend. Your distant descendant, her swollen belly

Taut as a drum, avoids my eye, and that of other menfolk.


While my glorious diva hurls her enraptured soul to the gods,

I sit, dove-like, brooding in the stalls; what in me is vast,

Dark and abysmal, her voice illumines and makes pregnant.


Some day, all together, we will stride the open road, wheeling

In an outsized pram my sixth, this broken, mustachioed

Soldier whose wounds I bind up nightly. His mother I forget.

from Six Children (Faber, 2011), © Mark Ford 2011, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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