There you are, as I was at your age,
A solitary child in your teeming realm
Far from the shimmering torpor that I see – this
Province of flowers, in radiant mourning.
For you invisible choirs hold their breath:
They crowd, in secret awe, between the
Crack electric wires of this late-summer
Garden. For sharp as saws, taut as a
Tendon ready to snap, its dried and shrinking
Stems. Rhythms of anemones, ragged hollyhocks,
The flame-haired helenium,
Attuned, for you, to music of another plane,
Where newness comes, ripe and bright.

I saw you, with blooms high above your head,
Testing yourself in fresh and unknown space:
Crashing, with your toes, a wake in gravel seas
- As I did, at your age;
Leaping the boulders of your
Grandma’s rockery – islands and isthmuses,
That float now on the white mists of an evening,
Where tattered mariner-moths, fugitives
In umbral velvet, scud and skim:
Where greenbottles, bloated and dissolute,
Lay fulsome in their dying dream.

You told me, you were jumping over the top
Of the world – the same phrase that I used
When I was eight. Little nephew: don’t become a
Slave within the cell of your perception, as I did;
Be like the panther that bounds, unfettered,
Unbound, though grievously captive:
Be our Prometheus, unafraid of necessary loneliness,
Bringing fire to the dwindling compass of our cage;
Seeing for the first time…where I, instead,
Watch stagnant, involuted forms
Preludes to a redundant nocturne –
Profuse and blowsy, a dusted reliquary –
Inert as adult thinking.

August 2001 – For James

“Who so must be a man, must be a nonconformist” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


Stephen Jackson

London, United Kingdom

  • Artist

Artist's Description

Another celebration of the magical potential of children (in this case, my nephew). What is it that we adults do, to squash them flat?

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