Breakfast

When you were born I was eating a plate of eggs

in a café called the Cupboard, five blocks

from the room where your mother and I conceived you,

admittedly an accident of desire, in the middle of the night,

wakened out of sleep, letting our bodies’ clockwork

lead us down a path we could not turn from, to you.

My life has been one surprise after another,

you being the one that keeps coming back,

a girl, for God’s sake, and now a young woman.

That day, before the earth’s harsh oxygen woke you

unto us, your mother cast me out of the labor room,

tired of my jokes, irritated that she had to do this

on her own while I stood there useless. I had never

heard her use the word jackass before. A few years

later they would come up with ways to keep men busy,

to make us feel as if we have some part in the intimacy

called birth. But we may as well be eating eggs

for the little we have to do with you daughters being born.

I didn’t carry you within me, didn’t push you

through the channel in the pit of my being,

the hose of life connecting us. Even had I become

your father a few years later when they were teaching men

Lamaze, had wiped your mother’s brow and breathed

with her her every breath like bellows on a fire,

had watched you turn a flamey pink and heard your first cry

from the canyons of this world, I would still have to envy

the woman who bore you.

Today you come to me

in your thirty-fourth year, lost and frightened, as anyone

would be in this inhospitable world to which we brought you,

and what can I do but sit you down with your hangover

and cook you breakfast? As long as we both live

we carry between us this staidness, this hum-drum,

until appears the rare moment when we look between us

to see how thin the string is and how delicately

we must hold our connection. I try to look steady and speak

a few words that sound like wisdom while you look

at me blankly and continue eating your eggs.


(first appearance in Rattle)

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