Children’s story

by Michaela Keeble

Friends, I’ve fallen from the stars again.
The planet is cold. I don’t want to be here, alone.

Come on! I pull up my socks and put on my dressing gown.
I’m going on an adventure. I’m going to the baby’s room.
It’s warm. The heater’s on. Kerehi is dreaming.
His eyelids twitch and his fingers curl.
Like Eric Carle, who made himself a star and sailed it
through the night, I sit at the edge of the bed.
Slip my hand into Kerehi’s hand.

All the treasures of our family make their way
to Kerehi’s room. The turning tide. The highest point
on the beach. I look around. What’s here?

These drawers, painted in the colours of the ocean
to remind this boy of how much he should love the sea.
My first and so far only piece of craft.
It’s worked, I think, he’s not afraid of the water.
He’s joyful in the breaking surf.

Above the drawers on a hook, the hei tiki
tuna ika, tiny taniwha Waiariki carved for me
one birthday, which I took to be a sign
that we would have a baby.
A little fish, a beating heart.

And on the bed, a quilt, one of seven
made by Ron Te Kawa from Koro’s clothes
after he died. Brown trousers. Blue golf shirts.
White thread sewn into a cresting wave.
This gift from Nana for the children
who would never meet their grandfather.

I tell Jane, a counsellor, I have no place
on this planet made by artists. Oh? she asks.
How much evidence do you have?
Plenty! I say. Plenty of evidence.
But here, high on the dry sand,
the proof is not overwhelming.

I tell Jane, the counsellor, that I’m afraid
to write. I lost one mother, and can’t afford
to risk any more: these vital writers
who are now the mothers of my mind.
A children’s story, she says.
Not one you would read to your son.

I kiss my boy goodnight
and touch the frame beside his door.
Alfie’s charcoal portrait of my mum
who died three decades before Kerehi’s birth.

Are you here? I ask. With me in the warm room?
Or am I out in the cold and you’re
nowhere to be found?

One culture frightens me with books
it says only a few should make.
Another coughs and passes the carved box:
Here is a feather. Here is some fibre.

Tonight, I move towards the craft
and trade of life, away from grief.

My boy tugged me here
just like my mother tugged me here.
Suddenly I’m at the centre.

A breakthrough in the binding.
A threading between two realms.

Michaela Keeble is an Australian writer living in Aotearoa New Zealand, with her partner and kids. She mainly writes press releases about climate change, but her poetry and fiction is also published online and in print, including in Capital, Turbine, Mimicry and CommunityLore.