Teach your children
to sail the Indian Ocean in a thimble,
to turn bathtime
into a voyage to the depths.
Teach them to balance, tip-toed,
on the pinpoint of a new idea –
sometimes they’ll fall off, and when they do,
teach them to number their bruises
like notches in a door frame,
count them with their achievements
like trophies and medals
in the living room cabinet.
Teach them that while bodies can be temples,
they are the gods to whom they’re devoted
and only they decide who kneels at their altar.
Teach them not to say maybe when they mean to say no.
Teach them that, like bodies,
sexuality and gender
come in a myriad of shapes and sizes
each as valid as the next;
that they can be who they want to be,
love who they want to love,
be it male, female, both, in between, or none of the above.
Teach them that the concept of beauty and brains
is not a dichotomy, and that there are
a hundred thousand ways to have both;
that they don’t have to smile with their lips closed,
and that not even the girls in the magazines
look like the girls in the magazines.
Teach them to embrace the gaps that can’t be filled,
that it’s okay not to know everything,
because learning as we go is the whole point.
Teach them that nobody is always right.
Even you. Especially you.
Besides being true, it’ll keep you humble.
Teach them to make up their own constellations,
to hop zig-zag from star to star
like traversing cracks in a pavement;
and when the heavens start to bend
and come crashing around their ears,
teach them to wear their good days like armour
so they can stand their ground.
Above all, remind them that they are not Atlas:
that their shoulders, however broad,
don’t have to hold up the world alone.
You’re in pale blue scrubs this time. Light ricochets off the bleach-white walls as you approach her, holding out a wriggling pink bundle – she takes it, cradling it against her chest, smiling as it wraps wrinkled fingers around one of hers. You open your mouth to congratulate her but reality swallows her whole and she wakes, arms aching with their sudden emptiness. She turns her head on the pillow and sees the black and white blur of her precious little bundle, printed and framed on the bedside table: hands that never uncurled from their clenched fists, eyes that never opened.