like rhymes, tings, heartdrums


It is dark.
I am lost.
It is horrible.
I mean it is really really scary.
When it is light I am found.
— Callan (aged about 10)

He hugs his teddy-bear and says
Sing a happy song.

He wants a happy song, lilting along,
to distract him from the growl
of his voice-destroying
fear. For eleven years
we’ve smoothed his hair,
stroked his skin, listened, talked,
kissed him —
yet the softly snarling menace stalks
and paces.

Sing a happy song. Let me fall
asleep by the fire, by you,
your heat, your heartbeat.
Sing a happy song.

I don’t have many happy songs.
It isn’t that sort of guitar.
It isn’t that sort of mind. It’s
really a bit Nick Cave in here.
I, too, hear the dark.

But I try. I sing my best
for him, sitting on the floor
by him. Shut your eyes, I say,
but he keeps them open
for a while.
                       His ritual bedside candles
sing along — their little flames like rhymes,
tings, heartdrums,
like the birdy bling and glisten
of the dawn.