Apart from the apparent values,
there are lessons in the circular:
paradigms for history,
time in a round world, turning,
love with another of your species –
To watch my only daughter
widening her circles is to ease
headlong into the traffic
of her upbringing.
Until nearly four she screamed
at my absence, mourned
my going out for any reason,
cried at scoldings,
agreed to common lies regarding
baby teeth. Last year
she started school
this year ballet and new math. Soon
I think my love will seem
Later there’s the hokey-pokey
and dim lights for the partners’ dance.
She ﬁnds a shaky nine-year-old
to skate around
in counter-clockwise orbits,
Is it more willingness than balance?
Is letting go the thing that keeps her steady?
I lean against the side-boards sipping
coffee. I keep a smile ready.
Every other weekend they go to their mother’s
Some Tuesdays or Wednesdays they spend the night.
She takes them for two weeks in the summer.
We divvy up the holidays. Otherwise
they live here, with me. We agreed to this
after months of court-appointed enmity
during most of which we behaved like children.
In the end, I was ‘awarded custody’ –
a legalese to make it sound like winning –
pancakes and carpools and the dead of nights
with nightmares or earaches or wet bedlinen
Their mother got what’s called her visitation rights –
a kind of catch-up-ball she plays with gifts
and fast-food dinners-out and talk of trips
to Disneyworld in the sparkling future.
They were ten, nine, six, and four when it happened.
I played their ages in the Lotto for awhile.
I never won. They were, of course, the prize.
They were, likewise, the ones, when we were through
with all that hateful paperwork and ballyhoo,
who seemed like prisoners of care and keeping
and settled into their perplexed routines
like criminals or parties to a grief –
accomplices in love and sundering.
Refusing at Fifty-two to Write Sonnets
It came to him that he could nearly count
How many Octobers he had left to him
In increments of ten or, say, eleven
Thus: sixty-three, seventy-four, eighty-five.
He couldn’t see himself at ninety-six –
Humanity’s advances notwithstanding
In health-care, self-help, or new-age regimens –
What with his habits and family history,
The end he thought is nearer than you think.
The future, thus conﬁned to its contingencies,
The present moment opens like a gift:
The balding month, the grey week, the blue morning,
The hour’s routine, the minute’s passing glance –
All seem like godsends now. And what to make of this?
At the end the word that comes to him is Thanks.
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