‘First Contact’ by Hugh Dunkerley

First Contact


Through a haze of ultrasound
we make you out, little amphibian

curled in your amniotic pool.
You’re still a long way off,

still trying to conjure limbs,
kidneys, a central nervous system,

still wrestling with your DNA,
the fishtail that loops you

back into the Devonian.
On the monitor the nurse

picks out your infant heart
draining and filling

with new minted blood,
pulsing its tiny code of hope.


Almost unnoticed
you’ve slipped into our lives,

moored yourself to existence.
Even now you could slide

into non-being, re-enter
the ceaseless, inexorable

lumber room of the world
where the dead

and the yet-to-be-born
commune with glacial till,

dust from supernovas,
the mulch of a billion summers.


little cave dweller,

you’re almost one of us,
a wordless prototype

waiting in the wings,
seeded with longings

and undaunted
after so long a journey;

a palimpsest of life’s
infinite scribblings

but the only copy of you.


With each passing month
you move through the constellations,

Aquarius, Gemini, Leo,
gathering mass and light,

your heavenly body arcing
across our night,

our waiting hands spread,
ready to catch you

in the net of love.
(a version of First Contact appeared in Irish Pages earlier this year)
Hugh Dunkerley’s latest collection is Hare (Cinnamon Press 2010). He lives in Brighton and teaches at The University of Chichester.

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