Friday, December 17, 2004


Immortality and Micturition

We found out in November, whilst on holiday in the Norfolk Broads. I pressed Norma to buy a pregnancy test in Cromer, plied her with diuretics for the next few hours (censored detail: mechanics of pregnancy test) ... and when that epiphanous second line manifested, I felt like a bus had hit me.. .. There were no paternal feelings / reactions whatsoever, I'm afraid - no kneeling to put my ear on my wife's belly, no whoops of "I'm going be a dad!". I honestly think my first thought was something like "Fuckingcuntingcrikey hell ... I've got a girl pregnant - my mum is gonna' murder me” (as if I were still 15 and this would mean I'd have to leave school, get a job, lose me mates, generally buckle down and stop larking about, etc.). Then my next thought was what Philip Larkin believed: "Nothing kills poetry like a pram in the hall”. Bah! I tried to reassure myself for the following few minutes, but instead, still in shock, I subjected myself to the most unsettlingly counterintuitive monologue, ever. I'd heard that expectant mothers should avoid soft cheese - it can damage the foetus. So, I reasoned, if something as soft as soft cheese can harm a baby, how can a baby be equipped to harm my poetry? Surely my poetry is not defenceless, and is robust enough to endure - all I'd have to do is avoid soft cheese. But, maybe my unborn baby was not made like other babies ... Could it be that in this instance, it wasn't sperm that fertilised the egg? Is it possible that an equally viable zygote could be formed when smegma from underneath an unwashed foreskin – a sort of soft cheese – finds an egg? Maybe this was the process surrounding my baby's conception, and if my baby is made of soft cheese, might that damage, or even kill, my poetry? My poor wife - I didn't have a single unselfish thought for the next few hours. My head was swimming for the rest of the day. And as I tried to fall asleep that night, I heard Leonard Cohen's lyric, "Everybody knows that you live forever when you've done a line or two", playing in my head, over and over, accompanied by a vision of that duplicate, unyielding, line on the test strip.
Later, I saw my wife in a dream,
Holding a leathery dipstick
Under her urine stream;
And then, once more, she showed me "that line",
Nodding her head, with a chortle.
I knew, of course, that this was a sign –
But did it suggest that I was immortal,
Or show how short my life?
Perhaps, I am already dead
(The kind of cheese you slice with a knife,
Never the kind you spread).
Hard cheese from the shop,
Hard cheese from the deli:
And I think it might be time to stop
Swearing within earshot of the belly
Of my pregnant wife ...