I have a daughter, I say, here is my daughter, I say, and here is the poem
where you and I intend a cool hour in the future. I break your heart:
that is how a poem should begin, and then you break my heart
because that is how a poem should end. Sapsucker, scarlet tanager,
Carolina wren, we are awake in the bird ruckus, dawn-riot that frees
the sun to heat. You must believe me when I tell you my daughter
is made of salt and noise and dew. Every poem is Eden and every poet
is Adam and isn’t that the silver gate unlatched by a hermit soldier
wielding a sword of flame? Open the windows: magnolias and their
blooms. Latch that gate: keep out the drought, the ruin post-solstice,
our season’s late blaze. I am counting, counting, and this is what I learn
about love and how to have a daughter: the world is starting over
in this poem. You have a lovely daughter, you say because the trees are
to you this morning and you are learning from the trees. Catalpa,
elm, let’s name her together. I am thinking of a number between 1 and
The morning wants a child, but here is our sweat and what is a poem?
We are counting, counting: a poem is a measure of time. I want to hear
a story only you know. How far did you swim to the pelicans loitering
on the dock and how old were you when the reach of your arms
a pelican’s wingspan? My daughter has no name because she is only a
and you are a man like an alphabet, fundamentally wise. When I ask
for the time, when I wonder about the weather, you say fine and fine.
I know meager words to redress sorrow:
consolation and in media res. It is, I explain,
what sorrow needs, how it happens. A door
falls out of the frame and you’re more
open than you’d like. Tonight I was dockside,
hating you, hating, but what good is that.
My ship did not wreck, nor round a graver coast.
I sailed only so far as to always see shore.
Mostly I stayed home, attendant to a weight
I still can’t name. I watched the waves and each
became my love: a whiplash of salt, cold constant
chorus, my heart’s oceanic erudition. Because
I have never known all that feeling knows,
the sea wins the rocking contest every night,
my ship sailing without me. Of houses, I know
I am fear’s familiar. You ate from my silent
plate, drank my silent imposition. Again, the sky,
in flames, begs for more—wasted clock, unread
books, more. There is no meaning in things
or words. More, you said. More, cried the sea.
Once, I wandered a shoreless country, its flaxen
fields vast as maps, where strangers swarmed
the streets like pollen and claimed primitive awe.
You were not there. You did not see the craft
with which I got lost. Of the world’s unforgiving
order, I am grateful that it is without wrath. Our
ancient tree, struck by storm, splintered at roadside.
Please note: its destruction spared the house.