I was so delighted to hear that Sinead Morrissey won the TS Eliot Poetry Prize last night. I have admired her work for some years, and every new poem she creates continues to impress and to move me.

Tonight, I read one of my favourites for my teenage daughter. My daughter’s parents are, like Morrissey’s, divorced, and the poem in question considers the legacy of this, as well as the visceral reality of what we are all products of.

Genetics

My father’s in my fingers, but my mother’s in my palms.

I life them up and look at them in pleasure —

I know my parents made me by my hands.

They may have been repelled to separate lands,

to separate hemispheres, may sleep with other lovers,

but in me they touch where fingers link to palms.

With nothing left of their togetherness but friends

who quarry for their image by a river,

at least I know their marriage by my hands.

I shape a chapel where a steeple stands.

And when I turn it over,

my father’s by my fingers, my mother’s by my palms

demure before a priest reciting psalms.

My body is their marriage register.

I re-enact their wedding with my hands.

So take me with you, take up the skin’s demands

for mirroring in bodies of the future.

I’ll bequeath my fingers, if you bequeath your palms.

We know our parents make us by our hands.

Sinead Morrissey

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