SONGS FOR THE FIRSTBORN*
(For Jing-jing, on her Birthday)
All the piper has is a bag of music and a pack of metaphors. ---From In a Sparrow’s Time, 1990
These broken smiles,
these cracked laughter
(O dear tender, dear
gentle, dear child)
You have become my little
mermaid, restless in your lair;
and I, the Sire’s shadow staid
on a creaking broken chair,
sprouting stems, rotting grass,
shooting blossoms dying on an ear.
Youth sprouts from sudden fear
in the bright grip of the city.
Now, almost half a century
into your life of hurts and pains,
and triumphs, too, you survive
on little drops of scarce caresses,
(torrents of struggle being now
your day’s staple) and never flinch
even when living becomes a sting
of madness---and you, no longer
the wee mermaid but a queen
of steel resolve, are now inured
to the thrust and parry of being
alive in a world not solely of your
making. But you grin and bear it,
like you have always borne
this helter-skelter world, a pioneer
daughter, who dashed from child
to woman, a lover, a handholder,
a rock upon whose shoulders we
can now cry on. But never in fear.
Not in the bright grip of the city.
---Albert B. Casuga
*For my firstborn, Angeli Francoise Casuga, who celebrates her birthday today.