I wrote many poems about my elder daughter when she was very small. The slide was one of those big, old fashioned metal ones about ten feet high, which are now considered far too dangerous. An orrery is one of those clockwork solar system machines they built in the eighteenth century.

The Tower

I go on the big slide!

How brave it is, and right.

Each step she takes is half her height

Yet she is not afraid.


See Daddy, watch me when

I go on my tummy. Watch me.

I don’t need anyone to catch me.

Watch me do it again.


And, as she bobs above it,

This space from the river’s edge

To the underpass and the railway bridge,

She is the princess of it.


From her infanta’s hands

Road, rail and river fall

To Canterbury, to Kent, to all

The new found lands.


As if a stone should be

Lobbed into silent water,

As if the sun of a little daughter

Conjured an orrery,


Beautiful like a ring,

Intricate, like a verse,

Cancelling out the primal curse,

Ordering everything.


On to the News at Ten:

Rape of a three-year-old kid

Dumped in a ditch to die (she did),

On to the world of men.


On to the world of men,

On, as soon as you’re ready.

Watch me do it again, Daddy.

Watch me do it again.

from Tennis and Sex and Death (Peterloo, 1989), © John Whitworth 1989, used by permission of the author.

John Whitworth in the Poetry Store

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