20 September 2010

On the Eve of Forty

Sitting between my almost-forty-year-old legs in the open kayak
You snuggle your wisp of a spine into my soft, warm belly.
Only your tiny, six-year-old-boy, left hand
Emerges from the cocoon
To lazily play the line,
Or kind of hoping,
To catch a mackerel.

We bob on the water
To the will of the every-other-second swell.
Your sister bravely mans the bow,
Paddling to her father's instruction.

- I think I feel a pull, Dad
I check.
Nothing but the lead weight bouncing off the bottom.

I reveal a hook, but only the first of the seven submerged.
- Look, I say...
- Nothing

- But what about the others, you say
- None there either, I say
- Show them to me, you insist
But you haven't moved a muscle from your nest
You're too warm, too cosy
Or is it that you are just between two minds...
... About whether you really want to kill a mackerel?

Into this supressed psychological struggle,
Your brave sister voices a struggle of her own:
- I'm getting splashed, Dad, and I'm a bit uncomfortable
- But I think I don't care, because I love this, Dad

Christ what kind of father am I?
No, I'm doing fine
She's having a good time
Now, myself reassured, I reassure her:
- Would I bring you anywhere unsafe?, I ask
Somewhere far off, I hear Mark Keane laugh.

- And there's no sharks in Ireland, anyway, Dad
- Sure there isn't?

I pause
- Well ...

- What, Daddy?

- Of course there are none, in Ireland, in the land of Ireland
- But there are in the seas around Ireland...

- What?

You're sense of amusement kindles at your brave sister's onset of terror

- ... But (I go on) they're not in this close to the land
- They're further out
- And anyway they're small ones around Ireland

- How big, Dad?, you ask
- Not big
- As big as the kayak?
(Your pleasure in discommoding your brave sister knows no bounds)
- No, much smaller than the kayak

There's an uneasiness from the bow
- I think we might turn round, Dad
- No, honey, not yet
- We'll just go ahead here for another drift

You seize your chance with both hands, now
- Over there to where the shark place is, Dad?

You get your kick
I spend the mandatory minute restoring your sister
Then you nestle back down once more with the line

A golden setting sun marks our final trawl over the waves,
Paving your brave sister's course.
We fish and paddle round in this way,
Cradled kindly in the bosom of our briny host.

When we return home, safe and sound,
You tell mom profoundly, that you 'caught no mackerel'
Innocent unstrained relief-mixed-with-wonder:
Is there even such a fish at all?
And if there is, what will we really do if we catch one?

On that day alone there'll be meaning in life after forty.