(p. 73) “The Tempest—To my daughter Miranda,” Stephen Corey
If you name your daughter vision,
or wondrous to behold, your should not be surprised
if she comes to you in anger or in shame,
wishing to be known as Mary or Ann.
That will be the moment to carry her out
to the things of the world she is not,
speaking other sounds that were almost hers:
aspen, lily-white, cumulo-nimbus glow.
Soon enough she’ll realize the world,
too often, gets named in hope of profit,
or deceit, or the scientist’s exactitude.
But on the greening island of the family
testing its voice in the months of waiting,
the sought-after words are music and the past:
Grandparent. Aunt. Child deceased.
Spirits of fashion and monsters of commerce
lurk, bedfellows eager to keep us
from our own best inventions and songs.
Some days it seems we grow from wailing silence
into speech, only that we might curse
the coming return to silence.
But if you’ve named your daughter wondrous to behold,
she’ll someday learn she heard those words
before all others, and then again, and again.
When you are gone beyond all roaring
she’ll know, should you ever brave return,
which words are the first you’ll speak.
The middle stanza of this poem is boring to me, but I like the father’s insistence that his child is “wondrous to behold,” and the idea that the best thing for a child feeling so trapped within her given name is not a long argument about why she’s so wondrous, but just to be carried outside (outside herself?) to see all those other things “wondrous to behold” like aspens and lilies and glowing clouds. And I like the ending insistence that the first thing the father will say if he sees her after his death is still that she is “wondrous to behold.”
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