Sunday, August 31, 2008

Infant Crying

Your wounded bird cry
at the base of each morning—
a stone tower rising upward, upward—
your two-foot-long body a plastic rattle,
it seems to me almost your infinitely small limbs
will snap off and fall to the floor.

A rubber doll with the thinnest of thin hair,
your mouth open and red like the fruit
of the hawthorn, the capillaries of your
blotched face about to explode . . .
there is light shining through you.
My skin winces when I enter your room. The efforts
of your nut-sized lungs is exhausting, frightening,
your whole body vibrating like an idling car.

An egg on my finger tips, a porcelain cup,
a goldfinch in the palm of my hand, bird
without feathers, my arms walk of their
toes when they near you. It took time to learn
you were durable, you would last.

Already you sense the ends of your body,
where something else is beginning.
Flashes, screeches, the infinite input, the walls
splitting around you . . . nothing responds.
Where there are arms, you cry. Where there are none,
you are silent.

Your fingers clench and open, clench and open.

You are the quince on the table
the coat in the closet. You were not born
for yourself. Ornament and machine,
you define but you lack definition.

I flap heroically at the confused dog
who sniffs at my nest. But the cat is more
difficult, more decisive. Its claws are immense,
beyond my understanding.
A nipple shrinks as it enters your mouth.

Your gums pucker and throb. You sense my
bewilderment, all bewilderment. We are existing
on each other's need.

Piglet, saliva bubbling from between your lips,
I smell your head like a flower.
I kiss it—a thousand times.
At night I lie on my back, my knees propped upward,
I lie there, awake, perpetually,
your parakeet heart thumping on the sides of my head.

(This poem appeared in Prairie Schooner.)