I suppose the body to be nothing but a statue or machine made of earth, which
God forms with the explicit intention of making it as much as possible like us.
—René Descartes, Treatise of Man

I loved you from the second time you were born.

It was difficult at first. I could not see
the soul sealed in soil.
Then my face rose in yours.
Petit tu. Déjà vu.

How you worked us with the whip of your wail!

At night I would unfurl the wave
of your little fist, terrified of still waters.
You said papa.
Red mouths opened

on your neck, the pale staircase of your spine,
right down to your knees.
They all kissed you.
And the sea laid flat its hands.

I could not accept the second body they dug for you.

They placed you in like a root.
                Leaves
                                poured from me.

Your soul was tossed into the air like a small bird.
I made a cage to re-capture it.
Not a doll, not a statue. A reflection
in reverse.

It was difficult at first. We did not remember each other.

But then your marble eyes fluttered,
the mechanistic jerks
of your right-angled limbs
became fluent in the language of memory.

Our first moments returned like migrating birds.
The skin-tent you made with your foot inside,
a red-tinged river, the cervix peeling back
like a bridge at the sight of ships: so real,
as if it had been me who gave birth to you.

We set sail for Holland at the Queen’s request.

Onboard there were rumours of ghosts and devils.
The men brought dogs and gunpowder,
opened your box.
Disbelief throttled the sails.

You held out a small white hand. A wave
reached back.
I lost you, lost you.

Now a father surfaces each night in my soul.

Inside every breath
the gradual opening
                of wings.