Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Amy Brown’s ‘Only Children’

Only Children

The Baby Shark Song eats
the part of me that cares

for rhythm, for pattern. Time
is a parent on leave, retired even.

What an age to be alive, I sigh
to my partner while playing a live

stream of a writer I admire (her face
fits my palm). I turn the screen

to show him and imagine my camera
has shown him steaming from the shower

where our son hammers the glass
with a plastic orca and chants

the words stuck in our shared head.
How does the Duchess know

Alice is thinking? he asks.
I say I can tell when he’s thinking.

Now? His focus relaxes.
Yes.

No! It was a trick.
He wasn’t thinking,

just looking.
Thoughts are made,

looking is a sort of finding,
knitting is done, dreams are suffered,

and listening to your mother read
Alice in Wonderland

is in between. Is it possible
to behead something

bodiless? I ask. Of course not.
He’s learning independence.

The balding Sylvanian badger
once belonged to me. I’d have it

speak to that same grey rabbit.
He’s built them a magnetic castle.

Mine was a red-roofed doll’s house
handmade by Grandad (ready to go—

now gone). Badger says to Rabbit,
It’s not lockdown here, so come on

inside and have a nice glass of wine.
It’s a good game, my son explains

You’d like it because
there’s no fighting.

I like watching the show Alone
because Vancouver Island

is a limpid coastline of the general
wild. Those whining men

living off limpets while yearning
for buckets of chicken gradually

know they’ll never be rescued.
A boat might deliver them

back to families, places where lost fat
is found, but there will always be want.

So, I tell my only child
we must learn to play alone—

to shape a shelter from fallen branches,
snack on oxalis and set traps to catch fathers.

Amy Brown

Amy Brown was born in Hawkes Bay and now lives in Melbourne. Her latest poetry collection, Neon Daze, a verse journal of the first four months of motherhood, was one of the Saturday Paper‘s 2019 books of the year. She is also the author of The Odour of SanctityThe Propaganda Poster Girl, and Pony Tales, a series of children’s novels.

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