Here’s the text:
For Isobel, aged 4 months
You’ve just arrived from nowhere.
We can see it in your face. Enthroned
on your royal blue rocking car chair,
you lift a clean astonished gaze
to meet our clean astonished faces,
as if you can’t believe we can’t believe
you’re here. As if life were always like this.
We’ll do our best to break the news gently,
we’ll make you laugh, we’ll make mistakes,
we’ll teach you to be Isobel,
to play the game we always play
that constitutes our life together —
but don’t believe all we say.
You can’t hear me yet, so I’m writing this
for a girl who’s climbed the stairs to her teens,
who can turn and hear my younger self
telling how Once upon a time
a fairy princess with a Tintin quiff
held court in a Greenwich flat
where Anton, Paul, Jane, Lee,
her Mum and Dad and I
played awkward courtiers in jeans
and t-shirts, and drank her health
to excess; while she sat and mused among us
with her wrinkled hands and lucent gaze,
ancient and slow as a tortoise,
quick and light as yesterday.