Before I’m born, I’m in no hurry to be born. So I arrive
unhurried. A shape in the trees. Weighted, a fishing-line pinching
the water’s surface. A voice like the moon, wordless
but listening. I grow gold, then, slick as a raindrop, red
as a hen in a doorway rent by daylight. I arrive early. I arrive
laughing—an inside joke—a belly-laugh
inside my mother’s belly, laughing
A dog disappearing into a snow-pile, an elephant
discovering the ocean. I come to full-grown
with a child’s body, asking: who are you to tell me I’m not a bird?
I look (so they say) the way any baby looks.
The way my grandfather, quiet as a lamppost, looks
five floors down from the hospital window
moments before I’m born and just in time to witness
his blue Toyota stolen and slipping up 7th street.
Like a train to its uncoupled caboose, I’m born
no good at math but here’s Buster Keaton’s sad eyes
as his hat drifts down the Seine. I’m the hat
the train the caboose.
The coal going in the smoke coming out.
I’m lifting the ties behind me, running ahead and laying them down
different. A mill raising the river up in pieces until the same old
same old, electrifies the village. I lean
-in, hunch-over, a jockey at the start-gate.
Horse-tremble. Ear-strain. Like a hammer
coming down on a nail—Bang! I’m out
and into the hands of strangers, gamblers, horse-thieves. (You know,
“family.”) They lift and look me over. I look
at them, they look at me (it seems
like the thing to do). When they untie me
from the mother I was, I arrive asymmetrical and out
of sync. Odd as an em-dash
in the river of things. Like rain. A sudden breeze. Like blood
dappling the clear-veined light of an IV. When I wake
I wake as a building wakes, one
window at a time into the unfinished evening. I wake
as my grandfather does, partway
through the night, newly widowed, reciting
to no one but the ceiling: ‘I went to school,
I got a job, I met my wife…
‘I went … I got … I met …’
I come to in the middle of a shift and thinking
only of sleep, work the whole way through.