A Little Crow by Louis Gilbert

For me it begins with a weekend of moving to a new house. Prioritising the unpacking of records became the most important thing. Looking over The Clash’s ‘Combat Rock’ album and finding out that the beat poet Allen Ginsberg had a writing credit for the song ‘Ghetto Defendant’ was oddly jarring. Then I’m told that ‘Yes, it is’. A drop turns into a blue cross and the whole world changes. What was two will become three eventually. I’m now a dad of some cells.

The only way to deal with this was toasted cheese and a frantic Google. A quick downing of tools.  In this case, D to F in my record collection and a trip to small deli at the end of the road. I was filled with confusion, befuddlement and questions. This will never change but I did not know that then. The pregnancy test lies on the side of unpacked kitchen crockery but is also carried in our stomachs.

3 months seems a world away of anxiety confided in small populations as not to jinx it or set up unrealistic expectations. I find myself in a waiting room, waiting for the unknown on the other side of an ultra-scan. Jelly applied externally and felt internally. Black turns to white, as shock flows through my simple system and I see for the first time a blob built of history.

News flies and becomes shared with cackles of joy, firm handshakes and anecdotal wisdom.  I am granted a sense of achievement without much effort, which allows me to feel lucky compared to other couples who waddle through puddles of anxiety with brave faces and even stronger hearts. I don’t envy them. My partner shares my deep breaths with a kind hand to hold and gentle eyes.

Time is measured out in fruit sizes. My child is a grape, a kiwi, a peach, a cooking apple, a pineapple, a watermelon. Variation seems to be lost in generality and days flutter by, filled up with what is going to happen. Sometimes with worry invested but mostly in excitement. I feel the occasional kicks. We buy books on names, days ahead and expectations.  These somehow never sit in your head despite the many times you read and re-read them. Minds get filled and let go as easily as it went in. Only the real thing will prove the learning. There’s little preparation, just anticipation. Seeing others with children leads to tense, fraught stomach muscles.

Then it begins, well you think this is the beginning so that must mean that there is an end, after all that’s how everything else works, but this is worked out by unpredictable hormones. Every time you feel that there’s a clear definition, its focus turns, and you begin again, stripped of initial hopes. Rebuild, restructure and reframe. Call in the night boys, it’s always going to be a long one. Family history is only an optical fibre of light in the uncharted territories that wait. Pros and cons will be given and somehow you have the choice in all of this but really, it’s more a submission to the path of least resistance. A little unfair when it comes down to it but guess when it does happen it’s better than magic.

The birth highlights the resilience, persistence and strength shown by women and a sense of awe in me that will never dissolve. This is our greatest evolution. All I can do is hope ‘the final push’ is the final push. Prayers to absent gods in early mornings go unanswered no matter how often they are repeated. Gentle offerings amongst gas and air are exchanged with yowls. Not frightening and somehow based around one note. Not an orchestra, as expected.

This new glow lights up and changes everything. It screams to show the power of oxygen and measure a patience which ebbs like a tide. Its helplessness has an infectious quality leading to a dependency. Uselessness becomes something in common. Looking into squinted eyes that look for mutual contrasts and corresponding patterns amongst an already confusing world become attempted codes of behaviour.  What am I to you and you to me? I’ve not had a conversation in a while.

We bounce, we cuddle, and we exchange glances. I do the only thing I know and show you The Beatles. We dance and I sing to you ‘Please Please Me’ and you do, and you will do. I show you the window, you can’t focus, and the broad landscape is too much for me. I’m greeted by yawns, fresh sneezes and befuddlement. I do a jig and a waltz though silent night corridors lit by machines and shifts trying to make sense for you and me.

I rest in the arms of plastic chairs that suit an irregular posture. I hang out by the tea machine, which imparts wisdom through the time it takes, and the energy it gives back. My moans are low and grounded in slippery circumstance. Blue curtains become the sea to the island of a bed and increasing baggage which measures your duration.

I talk to you and all becomes familiar. I’ve met you before at railway stations, family holidays, registry offices, intensive care units and at Christmas time but how do I tell you that I know that? I bubble with knowledge of unconscious DNA and you crow back to me with your ragged bird cry. It feels like you know this as well. I squawk back and peck your cheek before taking you back to your mother’s vitamin gold.

Louis writes poetry and creative nonfiction, alongside focusing on his musical endeavours. He is currently working on a nonfiction project investigating the work of New Order.

Image credit: “Record Collection” by Jeremy Brooks