Just before lights out, after bedtime stories, is when my son raises the big questions weighing on his mind. A few nights ago, a question about two storybook dogs fighting over a bone meant my having to explain—delicately—how and why cows are butchered. I only just avoided having to describe an abbatoir to a four-year-old.

But that was nothing compared to the subject he raised a few times last year. Which prompted this.

In the Dark

I don’t want to die,
You said,
Aged four, or almost five,
As I was sitting on the bed
In your tiny room.

I don’t want to lie,
I thought,
Aged forty-three or -four,
And tried to think of nothing fraught
To mutter in the gloom.

You will live a long
And happy life
(Probably. I hope.)
And almost all of it is still ahead
Of you, I said. Don’t fret.

Why do people have to die?
You asked.
I sat and thought on this.
Because if no-one did, I said,
How would we all fit?

Will anyone remember me?
You asked.
Of course, I reassured.
Your family, your friends, your kids,
Your wife. My voice grew hoarse.

When I die,
You suddenly announced,
I want to leave my treasures to
The museum.
And I said, that sounds good.

But what I should have said,
And in another life, I would,
You are my treasure
And museum.

15 January 2012 · Journal