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.
The oddest thing about being
Buddhist is what I once was,
and not just in a prior life.
Born, it turns out, and adopted
into a secular Jewish family, I
must still be Jewish even if I might
have lapsed back to secularity, they say,
because my Jewishness is a mark,
Cain-like it seems, though I always
lacked the nose for the role.
Some a bit more knowing remind me
that I can be both, though they
can’t imagine why anyone would.
I tell them I’m simply, only Buddhist
and not-think what that really means.
I laughed at my parents
when they talked about a typewriter
as something of a marvel
when they were so commonplace.
Of course as a boy, half the fun
of helping my father at work
was knowing the mimeo ink
would stain my fingers purple
for a week and even borax
would only render them lilac.
And the wet process copier
with the pink tissue paper sheets
seemed utterly remarkable.
10 rem Then I found the computer
20 rem and I could make a machine
30 rem actually do my will
return without gosub.
Now it seems so archaic as I look
back at my own life
all the while transferring
180 jazz albums
to the thumb drive
I will put in the car.
What would Stanley Turrentine
have thought of all this.
She likes to tell him that he
came from a small village in Lithuania.
He prefers to remind her that he
was born in the District of Columbia
which has never been mistaken
for a small village in Lithuania,
although he knows he could find
several who speak Lithuanian there.
And, he points out to her, that would
only be half the story, for he is certain
the father he has never met
never set foot, genetic or actual,
anywhere in Lithuania.
Still, in his dreams, he can sit
with the grandfather he never met
and they will converse in Lithuanian.
I strongly suggest,
is something on which
you cannot really count.
I know all things
to be relative
but as an only
and adopted child
I have none,
for me relativity
is something special
the lack weighs heavily.