in the part of her
that's now child.
~ Robert Bagg, from Cello Suite
~ Robert Bagg, from Cello Suite
In the Garden, 1895, Claude Monet
Is it you? Are you there,
thief I can’t see,
leaving me at the edge
New mystery floating up my left arm,
clinging to the curtain.
Eyes on stalks, full of pollen,
stem juice, petals making ready to unfold,
to be set in a white window,
or an empty courtyard.
Fingers fresh. And cranium,
a clean architecture
that swing open…
is it you, penny face?
Is it you?
small donkey, come forward.
Let world be cradle.
Fish drifting, enter weight gladly.
If suffering will chant you,
in pine dark, deer breathing.
In sea-bench’s sorrow gills salt-light.
Know owl-cries your forelock.
Know leaf-scent, know cities, know rivers,
doorways stand open.
In ice-grip, know muskrat’s strong swimming.
Let losing and breaking, let weather.
Let entrance entirely.
Desires bray sweet in the ladders of loudness.
Shy one, small donkey, trust hoof-fall
Seeds wait to ride on your ankles,
of apple sleep guardian.
The bridle placed heavy wears bell-sounds.
Agreeing come forward.
We are being born again,
getting second breath in skin and bone, vein
and artery, that once in grunion milt by sea and riverbed
died to take to air.
Through you I find new sight, see the egg
face to face, know the fish, grasp the tree and vine and
blossoming play the ape, to pay out more, still
more this cord our life-line, into time, into space.
With such grace you grow awkward, pantomime and trance
the moon and tides in their slow dance around the earth.
And then, delivered and light, how you shine,
how you shine.
Grave, my wife lies back, hands cross
her chest, while the doctor searches early
for your heartbeat, peach pit, unripe
plum–pulls out the world’s worst
boom box, a Mr. Microphone, to broadcast
your mother’s lifting belly.
The whoosh and bellows of mama’s body
and beneath it: nothing. Beneath
the slow stutter of her heart: nothing.
The doctor trying again to find you, fragile
fern, snowflake. Nothing.
After, my wife will say, in fear,
impatient, she went beyond her body,
this tiny room, into the ether–
for now, we spelunk for you one last time
lost canary, miner of coal
and chalk, lungs not yet black–
I hold my wife’s feet to keep her here–
and me–trying not to dive starboard
to seek you in the dark water. And there
it is: faint, an echo, faster and further
away than mother’s, all beat box
and fuzzy feedback. You are like hearing
hip-hop for the first time–power
hijacked from a lamppost–all promise.
You couldn’t sound better, break-
dancer, my favorite song bumping
from a passing car. You’ve snuck
into the club underage and stayed!
Only later, much, will your mother
begin to believe your drumming
in the distance–my Kansas City
and Congo Square, this jazz band
vamping on inside her.
Tadpole, it's not time yet to nag you
about college (though I have some thoughts
on that), baseball (ditto), or abstract
principles. Enjoy your delicious,
soupy womb-warmth, do some rolls and saults
(it'll be too crowded soon), delight in your early
dreams — which no one will attempt to analyze.
For now: may your toes blossom, your fingers
lengthen, your sexual organs grow (too soon
to tell which yet) sensitive, your teeth
form their buds in their forming jawbone, your already
booming heart expand (literally
now, metaphorically later); O your spine,
eyebrows, nape, knees, fibulae,
lungs, lips... But your soul,
dear child: I don't see it here, when
does that come in, whence? Perhaps God,
and your mother, and even I — we'll all contribute
and you'll learn yourself to coax it
from wherever: your soul, which holds your bones
together and lets you live
on earth. — Fingerling, sidecar, nubbin,
I'm waiting, it's me, Dad,
I'm out here. You already know
where Mom is. I'll see you more directly
upon arrival. You'll recognize
me — I'll be the tall-seeming, delighted
blond guy, and I'll have
When you are dreaming of the name
you are also dreaming of who they
might be. They are invented in darkness—
under cloak of skin—and, for the better
part of a year, are a swelling
or a set of symptoms. The name
books are like a box of chocolates
and when you open them you see
how many kinds there really are.
There are names of people you
have known and disliked and names
that make the wrong sounds and names
that suggest your child will be
like everyone else’s. There are names
that turn your child into a character
in a novel and names that recall
the time when your great-grandmother
was young. Naming the baby is a way
of dreaming about a creature who is
almost but not quite. It is a way of
imagining the soul of a person you
are making but have not made.
The name is the first way you see
the baby: their title, the syllables
that conjure a shape from the lantern.
It is now, when the whole jar
Of humidity has been poured on me
Like wet petals, and there is no question
Of dryness anywhere, that I am most close
to everything alive; the wet breath
That links leaves and sky to my lungs
Reaches deep inside my body and stirs
The silent seeds of all I hold dear,
And you, like the powerful muscle
We call heart, grow stronger within me.
What you want for it you’d want
for a child: that she take hold;
that her roots find home in stony
winter soil; that she take seasons
in stride, seasons that shape and
reshape her; that like a dancer’s,
her limbs grow pliant, graceful
and surprising; that she know,
in her branchings, to seek balance;
that she know when to flower, when
to wait for the returns; that she turn
to a giving sun; that she know
fruit as it ripens; that what’s lost
to her will be replaced; that early
summer afternoons, a full blossoming
tree, she cast lacy shadows; that change
not frighten her, rather that change
meet her embrace; that remembering
her small history, she find her place
in an orchard; that she be her own
orchard; that she outlast you;
that she prepare for the hungry world
(the fallen world, the loony world)
something shapely, useful, new, delicious.
Consider one apricot in a basket of them.
It is very much like all the other apricots--
an individual already, skin and seed.
Now think of this day. One you will probably forget.
The next breath you take, a long drink of air.
Holiday or not, it doesn't matter.
A child is born and doesn't know what day it is.
The particular joy in my heart she cannot imagine.
The taste of apricots is in store for her.
In August we carried the old horsehair mattress
To the back porch
And slept with our children in a row.
The wind came up the mountain into the orchard
Telling me something;
Saying something was urgent.
I was happy.
The green apples fell on the sloping roof
And rattled down.
The wind was shaking me all night long;
Shaking me in my sleep
Like a definition of love,
Saying, this is the moment,
Things are getting ready
to happen out
Stars and moths.
And rinds slanting around fruit.
But not yet.
One tree is black.
One window is yellow as butter.
A woman leans down to catch a child
who has run into her arms
Apples sweeten in the dark.
The rising hills, the slopes,
lie before us.
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.In the next century
or the one beyond that,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:stay together
learn the flowers