In the Beginning, There Was

My children talk about what the beginning
of the world looked like. It was pink, says
my son, with total certainty, almost as if
he remembers the beginning of his world,
which was not the beginning of mine,
but close: If we’re talking billions of years,
then what are my 35 before he was born?
Is it possible that at age four, he can
still hold the memory? I’ve heard that
we all retain everything we’ve ever
experienced, that we only forget
because so many things are layered
over, and perhaps because to remember
so much would be unbearable, even
immobilizing. At seven, my daughter
is shedding memory so rapidly that
preschool, which once seemed
indelible—which only ended
three years ago—is now mostly
gone. This is necessary, I know:
new experiences overlapping,
overtaking, replacing the old.
But if my son could remember
far enough, beyond pink beginnings,
further back even than his dividing cells,
those of all his human relatives, past
primates, further back than mammals,
past an egg tooth and a leathery shell,
beyond a pond somewhere—the
simplest beginning of the simplest
creature—beyond all that, back
and back to atoms, and past that,
all the way to nothing, would he have
an answer? Would he see the divine,
the void, the ways in which the two
are one and the same? But this is all
too cosmic. I wanted to say a true thing,
and somehow I ended up at imaginary
space dust. As if flesh is not enough.
Flesh. Sunlight. Water. Love.

Enough.

 

 

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Fact

When it’s all done, you are wearing enormous mesh underwear
and a huge maxipad that’s also an icepack. The emptiness shakes you
for a while, and the sleep-nonsleep of the hospital begins while you’re
still looped on whatever hormones got you through, whatever made you
think of your grandmother and wolves, whatever put you in a tunnel so
you were totally alone, apart from speech, your own voice and others’,
out of range of any soothing words or hypnotic suggestions or whatever
it was you were supposed to learn in weeks and weeks of classes that,
as it turns out, were total bullshit, completely insufficient. The good news,
the great surprise, is that you were sufficient. Now you are glad again
that your husband is here, that the chair reclines enough that he can drift beside you, pretend to sleep sitting up as carts clatter in the hallway outside your pretend door with no lock, as you pretend to sleep lying down on the pretend bed, amidst all the pretend comforts of this pretend room. There is, somewhere, your real baby, in your arms or in the plastic box. This is where
it all begins.

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