My Daughter Asleep - David Whyte

Carrying a child,

I carry a bundle of sleeping

future appearances.

I carry

my daughter adrift

on my shoulder,

dreaming her slender

dreams

and

I carry her

beneath

the window,

watching

her moon lit

palm

open

and close

like a tiny

folded

map,

each line

a path that leads

where I can’t go

so that I read her palm

not knowing

what I read

and 

walk with her

in moon light

not knowing

with whom I walk,

making

invisible prayers

to go on

with her

where I can’t 

go,

conversing

with so many 

unknowns

that must know her

more intimately

than I do.

And so to these

unspoken shadows

and this broad night

I make

a quiet

request

to the

great parental

darkness

to hold her

when I cannot,

to comfort her

when I am gone,

to help her learn

to love

the unknown 

for itself,

to take it

gladly

like

a lantern

for the way

before her,

to make her see

where ordinary light 

cannot help,

where happiness has fled,

where faith 

will not reach.

My prayer tonight

for the great

and hidden

symmetries

of life

to reward this

faith I have

and twin

her passages

of loneliness

with friendship,

her exiles

with home coming,

her first awkward

steps with

promised onward

leaps.

May she find

in all this,

day or night, 

the beautiful

centrality

of pure opposites,

may she discover

before she grows

old,

not to choose

so easily

between past

and present,

may she find

in

one or the other

her gifts 

acknowledged.

And so

as I helped

to name her

I help to name

these

powers,

I bring

to life

what is needed,

I invoke

the help she’ll

want

following

those moonlit lines

into a future

uncradled

by me 

but

parented 

by all

I call.

As she grows

away

from me,

may these life lines

grow with her,

keep her safe,

so 

with my open palm

whose lines

have run before her

to make a safer way,

I hold her smooth cheek

and bless her

this night

and beyond it

and for every unknown

night to come.

- David Whyte

River Flow: New & Selected Poems

©2006 David Whyte and Many Rivers Press