Picture of Innocence
You gaze down at your daughter, Camille, and lay your hand upon her body. She is asleep, resting after a long day, exhausted after spending the day with Boris at the Zoo, then the café in the park. You wish her father had been that affectionate, had taken the time to be with her, been interested enough to want to be with her and you, but he wasn’t. Just other women, other things to occupy his life and mind.
You stroke her ribcage. How thin she seems; not a bit like her father, not one ounce of him in her that seems apparent. You gaze at her hair, at the features that you can see. She takes after you, it’s in her face and eyes. Even her temperament is yours, you feel, and are glad, rather than her father’s moroseness, and cruelty. If you had taken your mother’s advice you would never have married Paterson, never have let his hands or lips near you, let alone marry the jerk. He’ll be no good, for you, Mavis, she had warned on your wedding eve. You never listened, never took note. You knew best, you thought. Marry in haste, relent in leisure, your father had said, in that voice that made you want to hit him, but you never did, although he had hit you many a time as a child, even for the most trivial of things. Dead now, preaching to some other crowd now, wherever he is.
You smile at Camille’s sleeping face. Picture of innocence. Like you as a child, you guess. But there had been no Boris in your mother’s life. Just your father and his preaching and teaching and moaning and sitting at the table with his long hangdog features and the cane by his hand ready for punishments.
You remember creeping into your parents one night as a child and hearing the most awful noises in the dark; like your mother were being strangled or beat up upon. You raced from the room, hid under your blankets in case your father should come and get you. Camille came into your room last month as you and Boris were making love. Her voice knifed you, so that you and Boris fell apart like some circus act gone wrong. She had wanted a glass of water, her small voice echoing through the dark, Boris and you panting, going all frigid as if death had claimed. Boris lay smiling in the dark, as you went, took Camille by her hand, fetched her water, lay her back to bed and to sleep. Now she sleeps again. Picture of innocence. Angel of your life. Your precious. Your daughter.
Terry Collett is a 60-year-old poet, who has been writing since 1972. He has had two slim volumes of poems published in 1974 and 1978. Since that time he has had poems and short stories printed in anthologies, magazines, and newspapers. He is married with eight children and eight grandchildren.