As a child I would often stare up into the night sky. The stars, the planets, at least the two I knew I could see. My parents didn’t think my behavior odd, they assumed I wanted to be a scientist and explore the universe. I let them believe this. It was far easier than explaining that the alternative was to sit in the living room with them and listen to them bicker about something so minor that happened that day, with no escape from their earthly prison.
My sister only wanted a horse
an my parents thought they could solve
that dilemma with a pony at her fifth birthday party
where she would get all the extra rides,
her friends and playmates be damned.
Like most great parental plans,
this one was doomed to failure,
and failure marched front and center
as they learned from the pony was loaded
back into the trailer and my sister
tried to tie herself to the trailer
with ribbon from her gift wrap.
She was never good with knots,
even when she died at 52, the cancer
having ravaged her one organ at a time,
but even in her waning days, she
whine to our mother that all she ever wanted
was a horse, then winked at me, staring
around her hospital room, since we both knew
there was a pony in there somewhere.
They come when you least expect them
appear seemingly out of nowhere
at first so small they go unnoticed
but never unheard, for what they lack
in size, they make up for in volume.
The get beneath your skin, take
root, steal into your heart, and find
themselves in the brain’s synapses.
Before long they cannot be ignored
like a drug for which you need ever
increasing doses as they become more scarce.
You know you are hooked, you know
that cold turkey withdrawal is never
an option, just something about which
you read about and twice a year
you cast logic and economics
two winds of fate, spend lavishly
for you know parents who spoil children
must be admonished and abhorred
and grandparents who do not
should be treated equally so.
Nothing unexpected happened today.
That, in itself, was entirely unexpected.
On this and certain other days,
you have to expect the unexpected.
When that doesn’t happen you are left
to ponder why what was logically expected
went so unexpectedly wrong.
Nothing unexpected should happen tomorrow.
At least anything unexpected happening
would be a truly unexpected event.
But as our parents always told us,
we should always expect the unexpected.
Or so was their perpetual expectation.
She is seven, going on some much larger number.
She believes in the tooth fairy.
She believes in the scientific method.
She believes in vegetarianism and ecology.
She believes in helping her parents
and was doing so when she found
her baby teeth in a small bag in their dresser.
She no longer believes in the tooth fairy
but she does believe in economics. And physics.
She told her parents that she expected
five dollars for each tooth going forward,
or her brother would learn something
that no four-year-old ought to know.
She believes that leverage is a key
principle of physics that every child should master.
A week ago there was a moment
that perfectly summed up life,
at least as seen by a three-year-old.
Three-year-olds know far more
than they are given credit for knowing,
far more, they are certain,
than their parents, and just enough
to make their grandparents laugh
at the most inopportune moments.
It was lunchtime, always a period
where so very much can go
so very quickly wrong, but all
was peaceful on this day, much laughter
and conversation until the moment
he twisted his mouth, and in a voice
more suited to an arena, announced
“I can’t believe . . .
I have salad . . .
in my mouth!”
Tonight, if the sky remains
mostly cloudless I
will go out into the yard
and select a star.
The selection is easy,
dragging it into the garage
unseen is a far
more difficult task.
It will have to be
a rather small star,
a neutron would do
but with my bad back
the weight might be
too difficult to bear.
If I cannot find
the right star, I
will try again
the next night,
and the next until
I succeed and prove
mother right, that I
can do anything
I set my mind on doing.