I had the odd experience the other day of reading a poem that was very much like one I’d written myself.
I don’t simply mean that it felt similar, but rather almost like its twin.
Now, I should confess that I once showed a poem – one that I was rather proud of in fact – to my editor who, deftly managing what could have been an even more embarrassing situation, gently suggested that my poem was very similar to one in his book of a few years before. Which he then showed me on his phone. 🤦 🤦 🤦
In my defence, I had no recollection of his poem – but, I had certainly read the book that it was in – and I had clearly regurgitated his poem, many years later, albeit unconsciously.
But the experience the other day was different.
I can be as sure as I can be of anything that I had never read Hiroshi Yoshino’s poem To My First Child before. So it couldn’t have influenced my poem. I’m not sure what this says, if anything, other than chance will dictate that poets approach the same topic in very similar ways. But it was quite a weird feeling nonetheless.
Anyway, here are the two poems.
To My First Child
It was only a day or so after you were born.
they came along, opening and shutting
their black leather brief-cases
Travelling insurance salesmen
(What sharp ears they’ve got)
When I showed surprise
they answered with a smile
‘We knew because of the smell’
Your soft body has not yet even
decided on its features
Where in it is the tiny death
I must have planted?
must have started smelling already
Not that I thought he'd be exempt, you realise.
Still, as I left the hospital that evening,
it rankled, how the world had shown no give
whatever, had simply carried on.
So, you're taking him too?
I may even have muttered –
a comment meant, of course, for time,
whose hands feel gentle,
encouraging, as they guide and carry
before un-cupping, flattening,
so as to steer, to shove. I mean, no grace
at all, not a day, an hour even.