by P. W. Bridgman
In the dying light, as the moon drifts fully behind the casement’s edge,
Ted and Grace’s little one drifts too: from a fitful wakefulness,
at last and finally to a placid sleep.
Somnolence settles upon him like a blessing, like a light snowfall,
like the blanket’s satin border resting soft against his rosy cheek.
The boy’s breathing settles too, becoming gently rhythmic,
quietly shushing away their cares with every tender inhalation
This day’s nightly vigil now complete, Ted and Grace
exchange a glance and rise from the foot of his bed,
careful not to disturb him.
As she pads softly toward the door, he bends down,
kisses the sleeping boy’s forehead, gently pulls back the fingers
of his five-year-old hand—clutched close to his little heart—
and removes the talisman, the charm without which
this child cannot descend into dreamland.
Ted flattens and smooths the crumpled £50 banknote,
then returns it to its special place on the bedside table,
propped up against the yellow butterfly lamp.
The Queen smiles wanly at the wall.
It is entrepreneur Boulton and engineer Watt on the obverse
who greet the boy each day when morning’s first light
floods the room and sleep begins to fall from his eyes.
He knows their names, just as he knows that
it is Jane Austen who graces the lowly £10 note,
and Elizabeth Fry who graces the more lowly £5,
and Beatrix Potter who graces the still more lowly 50p coin.
Just as he knows that his father’s name proudly
graces the letterhead of a merchant bank,
and that his mother’s
graces the door
of the… er…,
of the nurse’s room at school.