This is an attempt to respond to an essay in last weekend’s Guardian on why a generation is choosing to be child-free. As it happened, it was also the day before my younger son’s birthday. Together, these things brought up a mix of emotions that I tried to articulate – not resolve – in this poem.

On the table, this morning, remains of
last night, of a fire with friends for his
birthday: one more sleep till fifteen.
I clear up, make some coffee, sit down
with the Saturday paper: When I think
that it won’t hurt too much, I imagine
the children I will not have. Choose not
to have, given fears and predictions and
knowledge of impact. I too have carried
these facts, felt their shape, the grief
and the longing. Mostly, a child is so
abstract to me. That too I remember.
That and the moment it turned: suddenly
none of it abstract. Things I can’t now
unimagine: his voice, just starting to
break. His moods and his migraines;
his quirks. The way he loves jazz and
his playing of it and the way he debates
other worlds: the questions they raise
and the answers they don’t.

On the table, tonight, we play poker,
Stan Getz in the air. For now, it is this:
gambles and improvisation.

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