The night we gave Anicë her first bath,
the Americans bombed Kabul.
We were safe with family in Devon,
staying in a small thatched cottage –
the front room was as compact as a bunker,
the low ceiling had dark beams
and thick cob walls sheltered us
from a wind that butted at the door.
We stared at the blue screen
flickering with sick stars,
and then, as an antidote,
turned our backs on the world
and laid a towel, a bath
and Anicë’s new clothes on a table.
We unwrapped her from her layers
like a game of pass-the-parcel.
The ratio was in her favour –
five adults to a scrap of life
just five days old, whose body
shone like a leaf in the rain.
It was a kind of baptism
into a temporal world.
All Anicë knew was fractured light,
the murmur of our voices –
little darling little one
and the thin sweet thread of milk
from Rebecca’s nipple, flaring
over her like a dark constant sun.
Louise Wrightson has lived in Wellington for many years with her partner, Dave Russell. She is a bookseller. After five years managing Unity Books, she set up her own company, New Zealand Books Abroad. The company specialises in New Zealand books and is currently building a website.
She was a student of Bill Manhire’s creative writing class in 1996. Her poetry and prose have been published in Sport,Landfall, Metro, The Listener, Turbine, and in many anthologies. She has a grant from Creative New Zealand to complete a manuscript.
Wrightson comments: ‘Anicë is named after her great-aunt. Her Lebanese name has two meanings – “the beloved” and “the bringer of great joy and happiness.”
Anicë’s birth was difficult and she spent several days in an incubator. When we first saw her, she had just come home and was distressed.
The poem is simply a record of what happened. We were all upset by the bombing of Afghanistan and on edge because Anicë was unsettled. It was a dangerous world to be born into but she also signalled a new life and a new beginning.
I had to be careful when I wrote “Anicë’s World”. A word out of place, (or the wrong word), could have tipped the poem over into sentimental slush. And I asked Rebecca’s permission to allow this personal experience to be shared outside the family.’