A Kind of Surrender / geoffrey philp

(For H.)

In a photograph taken just days
after her fifteenth birthday
with my daughter and her friends holding
her aloft like some Greek heroine,
she would accept the dare
born from the fissure
between those whom she had loved —
the fault lines that unearthed fists
of pine that ringed wetlands, forests
of hardwood hammocks, and sinkholes
further north — and she would swallow
those hard white tablets, one
by one, while the pouis blared
their yellow trumpets against the Lenten
sky patched by a pale promise,
Azrael’s hands spread between his luminous
wings, as he gently squeezed her heart —
a bitter pill for every year

There are evenings like this
when I understand why she slipped
from this life, desiring neither hell
nor heaven, no longer wanting to carry
the burden of becoming someone else’s lover,
wife, mistress, to just fall asleep
and let the dreams analyze
her choices: the bad ones
that in time would look like wisdom;
the good ones that led to the bedroom
pillow, the stifled screams.

Yet downstairs, I hear the gurgle
of my neighbor’s newborn, the thump
of my son playing basketball with some kid
from down the street, my daughter dancing
to “Habibi, habibi,” and I turn away
from the bathroom cabinet, chalk
pills and tumbler of water, the tap left running,
and welcome back my loves
to whom I had become a stranger, arguing
in the hallway, murmuring
in the living room, asleep on the verandah.


Geoffrey Philp is the author of the children’s book, Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories, and he maintains a blog @ http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com. His next book, Who’s Your Daddy?: And Other Stories will be published in May 2009.