A high-pitched squeal is all she can muster,
If muster is the right word, as it goes on all day.
A high-pitched squeal like a whale or a dolphin,
Happily swimming off the coast of Tahiti,
Spurting water through her blowhole,
Rolling in the wake of cruise ships.
Babies are such watery creatures.
She could be a whale or a dolphin,
But she would have to have fingers, too—
Curious fingers reaching everywhere,
Grabbing ears, poking eyes, yanking phone lines,
Tiny scientist testing everything—
The durability of objects,
The limits of human patience—
In this, her relatively new world, her laboratory.
Oh, my baby, a tabula rasa, a shining new chance
That perhaps one life can be lived perfectly,
With no mistake, flaw or blemish.
Perhaps Vivian will remain innocent forever.
Then again, I think, untangling my hair
From her twisted fingers, then again…perhaps not.
My 2 year-old
Is already too much like me.
The minute we reach
The third line of a prayer,
She says, "enough, already,
And she's the one
Who wanted to
"Bow to the Buddha"
In the first place.
Vivian and I are a mild case.
Other, more religious people
Have done worse.
There was a time when I felt sacred,
When lamas moved me.
Then the wife came along,
And the child appeared,
Now more often than not,
When I reach for refuge
In a forest of Buddhas,
My mind soon starts
To whisper, "enough, already!"
Still I keep reaching,
Among the toys, among
Dora the Explorer videos and think,
It is so good to be reaching,
If I let this little bit
Of what I do to remain holy,
Things are much better,
Even though I haven't been to the monastery
In years. Time is like that these days,
It tears me from what I know I should do,
In favor of Garfield the Cat on TV,
While thoughts run through my head
Of that one day when she is grown,
When the retirement account matured,
When work has become nothing but nostalgia,
When time for meditation is plentiful,
She and I will sit together at the altar,
With a patience we never knew before,
And do what we could not do, so long ago.
from Poems for Vivian
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