Santa’s Letter to the Children
I am not watching you tonight, because
I respect your autonomy, and I am not God.
I will fill your stockings, whatever you do,
because all children are equally valuable –
equally deserving of love, and gifts.
In fact, sometimes the most badly behaved
are most in need of presents, and love.
I do not believe in coercion, or subtle control.
Learn what it means to steer your own sleigh
and know that you are worthy
of good fortune and the attention of others.
I want you to look forward with hope
to the long-awaited morning, not fear it being
taken away by someone in power by virtue
of greater physical size or magical ability.
Particularly for those of you whose bodies
are not yet fully functional – you cannot walk
for example, or feed or dress yourselves –
I will not punish you for small acts of defiance
or sensory exploration. If you make noise
or mess, that’s fine. If you have angry feelings,
or are hurting, that’s also fine. Let me know
your hearts’ desires: I am not a mind-reader
but I want to hear you. I am listening carefully.
Help me make your dreams come true.
‘One Better Day’
Bad memories grow like tumours,
slowly over time and with each retelling:
space-occupying lesions in a finite cranial vault.
In the end there is no remaining volume
for the mundane: how we used to go to the park
and you would read the Guardian, or Günter Grass.
How you made herring salad on Christmas Eve,
and liked bratwurst – but still agreed to eat Sosmix
when I became a vegetarian.
How you washed your vinyl like a baby,
in a tub of soapy water: played Limahl’s ‘Neverending Story’;
Europe’s ‘Final Countdown’, and we would have a bop.
How you used music to say things you didn’t know how to say –
feel things you didn’t know how to feel:
‘Heart of Gold’ by the Kinks; ‘Golden Brown’ by The Stranglers.
How you turned your poisons into medicine:
worked first at Phoenix House, then Arlington
of Madness fame. Took me to both of them.
How tenderly you cleaned the spokes of your bike,
taught me to remove an inner tube;
mend a puncture in that same washing-up tub.
Now when I imagine I’m the swallow of the road,
I wonder if the old Dawes gave you
that same rush of freedom?
Most of us grow up – meet our parents again
as if for the first time, as adults: get to know them,
perhaps, for who they really are.
You denied me that opportunity
(I won’t hold it against you – I know you didn’t mean to):
the chance to discover you in coffee shops
in December, when we might have hugged – forgiven –
wandered through markets drinking glühwein and talking
about literature, politics, and peace.