The Fates stand by the crib. It is midday,
but they have darkened the room for effect.
The baby’s mother stands opposite them,
her hands folded over her apron.

First Fate: This child is destined for great things.
Second Fate: This child will change thought.
Third Fate: This child will be remembered for all time.

The mother squeezes her hands together and her eyebrows rise.

First Fate: There will be difficulties
Second Fate:                                 and anger
Third Fate:                                                but these will be overcome
First Fate: and glory will follow.

The second Fate, ceremoniously,
presents the mother with a skein of thread.
The mother receives it with both hands.

‘She is so small,’ says the mother, ‘it is hard to imagine.’

First Fate: She?
Second Fate: She?
Third Fate: She?

The Fates turn their backs on the mother
(who is not Charles Darwin’s mother)
and whisper together.

First Fate: Is this
Second Fate:                  not
Third Fate:                             Mount House?

The mother shakes her head.

The Fates turn their backs and whisper.

First Fate: I’m afraid there has been a mistake.
Second Fate: I’m afraid I’ll need that back.

The mother’s eyebrows snap together
and she puts her hands behind her.

Third Fate: This is how things are supposed to be.

The mother (who is not Charles Darwin’s mother,
but has ambitions for her child nonetheless)
squares her shoulders and says,

The Fates stare at her
then disappear with a pop,
leaving behind, for effect, three wisps of smoke.


The mother touches
the skein of thread to the baby’s cheek.
Then she takes her finest needles and begins to knit.

Round and round, loop and stitch,
she lets the pattern make itself.
And when the thread runs out
she pins the circle of lace above the crib.

The design could be anything.
When the mother (who is not Charles Darwin’s mother,
but whose child will nonetheless achieve great things) walks by the crib
she stops to look.

Some days it seems that ferns and twisted vines appear,
some days it’s all sharp edges – steel and brick.

On other days the patterns resemble stars,
small bright fragments
of an expanding universe, full of possibility.


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