Poem introduction

I wrote many poems about my elder daughter when she was very small. The slide was one of those big, old fashioned metal ones about ten feet high, which are now considered far too dangerous. An orrery is one of those clockwork solar system machines they built in the eighteenth century.

The Tower

I go on the big slide!

How brave it is, and right.

Each step she takes is half her height

Yet she is not afraid.


See Daddy, watch me when

I go on my tummy. Watch me.

I don’t need anyone to catch me.

Watch me do it again.


And, as she bobs above it,

This space from the river’s edge

To the underpass and the railway bridge,

She is the princess of it.


From her infanta’s hands

Road, rail and river fall

To Canterbury, to Kent, to all

The new found lands.


As if a stone should be

Lobbed into silent water,

As if the sun of a little daughter

Conjured an orrery,


Beautiful like a ring,

Intricate, like a verse,

Cancelling out the primal curse,

Ordering everything.


On to the News at Ten:

Rape of a three-year-old kid

Dumped in a ditch to die (she did),

On to the world of men.


On to the world of men,

On, as soon as you’re ready.

Watch me do it again, Daddy.

Watch me do it again.

from Tennis and Sex and Death (Peterloo, 1989), © John Whitworth 1989, used by permission of the author

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John Whitworth

John Whitworth Downloads

1Jenny Jefferey: A Topographical Love Song


2Lindsay Paterson


3I Wish You A Wave of the Sea


4Joffy and Me


5Getting to Go


6The Tower

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7Down Oz


8Love & Sex & Boys in Showers


9The Room and Mr Twelvetrees


10Minstrel Boys


11The Disappearance of Jack Moon




13Like Love


14You and the Books


15His Dreams


16Respected Sir


17Reading the Bones


18The Examiners


19Life at Eighty


20On the Deaths of Philosophers


21The Peak and the River


22Dog Days




24Black Dogs


25Tobacco and Boies


26The Sacrament of the Water


27Nil Carborundum


28Love You Madly