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How strangely satisfied I am constructing
containment as I assemble my child’s
crib. Side-rail A’s tongue judders
into the headboard’s groove, and a bolt
spins in. Torquing the Allen wrench,
I’m godlike: it disappears in my squeeze,
burrows another bolt. But step two requires
of so many cribs, the human tongue
honed for babel. Coupled and propped
any construct can stand steady enough
to hold some fragile thing awhile, given time
becoming custom, so our marriage
develops its dialect and familiar plush.
Which is also a cage as it holds up,
a scaffold. Through these bars, our child
will see much. My wife calls dinner.
I know she means five minutes.
Driving the slow lane, traffic grumbled up
and passed. The boxed crib jutted
from under our trunk lid, loomed
over the bumper. Plain and honey-colored,
which looks more shellacked Cheerio
than gold, expensive enough I winced
and slowed for each divot. That sensation
overtakes me often these days—Doppler
shifts of others zipping by even in clunker
versions of their lives while I brake.
I barely glimpse Corvettes anymore. Pregnancy’s
a road trip plod among commuters; the womb’s
a Winnebago with the vanity plate PANDORAS,
Elpis merely an apricot drifting in syrup.
We have too many maps. Right now
I want to idle in my child’s past.
My wife’s belly ripples, ridges, and quiets.
A full half hour we’ve pined for every nudge
and jab, agape when a butte’s cast up, held
for a palm, a wince, before it melts. She guides
my hand like a metal detector. My only day at a beach
I was buried to my chin, and the sand held me
like a mold. I want to ask the thrashing skin,
Will you treasure the genes we’ve given you?
Here are bad teeth and perfect vision.
Here is skin that blushes easy under sun.
Here’s a small heredity of melanoma.
Here, have some height, claim your share
of curls. Here’s enough muscular grace
to twitch at rhythm—we can only get you
that far. Here’s a wife, a husband,
and a worn movie: she’s absorbed in costumes,
he’s over-focused on plot. Some nights
the man construes himself into a dither,
the woman hardly saying a word. And here,
at the breakfast table, peaches, which he
picked out because, under touch, they give
like loam, as she said they should,
remain in a bowl between them. If only
they’ll talk to each other, ask forgiveness,
slice a peach into squares. We can only
get you that far. And here is parenthood:
coupling resolve with coming up short,
utter happiness and utter lack, what you are
stuck with. What we, every day, offer.
As much as we wish it otherwise,
most of what we do turns waste.
The crib will serve its purpose,
become trash, but the leftover peaches,
like all bodies, consumed, broken
down tomorrow in the after-lunch
crucible of your mother’s digestion
and recast—a freckle on your skin,
a ligament of one eye’s lens,
as even the single shining brainfold
that may hold these words, then change them.