for a daughter, eighteen
Dear child, first-born, what I could give outright
I've given--now there is only a father's wishing.
What can I hang around your neck for magic,
or smuggle in your pocket? I would draw
you a contour map of the territory ahead
but in truth it could only show you X--you are here.
The rest would be your Terra Incognita.
Years ago, in the trees beside a mountain lake
after bedtime, your mother and I sat up
together, reading the fire. Each flame, leaping,
seemed a stroke of the future, a signal for us
for you asleep in your nest at the rim of firelight
where great jagged shadows danced like knives.
We faced our ignorance until the fire was ash.
Once, in the first transports of adolescence,
you wandered over the hills behind the Sky Ranch,
remember? Suddenly beyond your feet
the country plunged away to utter strangeness,
and you were lost. The south wind carried your cries
like birdsong. At last I found you quiet on a stone,
your eyes full of the world we do not own.
Now it is all before you--wonderful
beyond a father's bedtime reckoning,
beyond his fears. What is it love must say?
Go forth to the fullness of your being: may
a merry kindness look you in the face.
Where home was, may your travels bring
you to a fellowship of open hearts.
So love must change our parts, my child no longer
child. I stand rehearsing at the door,
and think how once at bedtime, a dozen years
ago, I taught you how to cross your wrists
in the bright lamp-light, and link your thumbs, so,
and there on the wall a great bird arose
and soared on shadow wings, to the wonderment of all.