Poetry: The Book of my Enemy — Stolen Children | clivejames.com
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Stolen Children

From where I sit for cool drinks in the heat
The Covent Garden Jumpzone seems to fling
Kids over rooftops in a bungee dive
The wrong way, and the thrill it is to swing
Straight up and down you see when they arrive,
In Heaven as on Earth, with kicking feet,

And so depart. One flier takes the pip
By somersaulting in her harness when,
High overhead, there is a moment’s pause
For rubber to recuperate. Not then,
But later, as she signals for applause
With a slow stride instead of a last flip,

The penny drops. I’ve seen this girl before.
Above the birthplace of the Son of God
It had pleased Botticelli to impose
The perfect circle of a trained cheer-squad
Dancing barefoot with light fantastic toes
As angels do, the cloudless blue their floor.

The second from the left was my dream girl.
Outside, Trafalgar Square filled up with snow.
Winter in England was a culture shock
More ways than one. The gallery’s warm glow
Seemed concentrated in a flowing frock,
A flash of ankle gleaming like a pearl.

Back down with us, she saunters past my chair.
About thirteen, with more than blips for breasts,
She wasn’t born before I saw her first
On a glass board surfing the troughs and crests
Of the air waves. Nor was her mother. Worst
Of all is how the longing lingers there

Yet leaves us nothing else to bless at last
Except our luck that we were not insane.
The Standard says the missing girls are still
Not found. A man is held. The writers strain
The law’s pale letter, closing for the kill
As once the mob did, not far in the past.

Suppose he did it, don’t I know that face?
I shave it every morning. The same eyes
Plead innocent. In his case, one loose screw
Switched the desire a priest can’t neutralize
To children, and permitted him to do
What we don’t dream of even when God’s grace

Stuns us with glory walking in the sky.
Grace, but not justice. If an impulse makes
Mere fools of most but monsters of the rest,
A balance sheet of what it gives and takes
Implies a mediator who knows best
If you can just surrender. Nor can I.

Think of the fathers, praying. They must know
No one exists to listen who did not
Choose them for this, but where else can they ask
The same exemption all the others got
By chance? They beg for mercy from a mask.
Had it a mind, they’d not be weeping so.

Time to go home. The things I tried to tell
My own two daughters churn in my hot head.
The stranger won’t come on like Captain Hook.
He’ll laugh like me, crack jokes, yet want you dead.
Good story, Dad. I turn for one last look
At Paradise, and how we rose and fell.