They had only wanted to be generous, our parents, to open
their lives, their hearts, to every possibility the Absolute offered.
To bring it all in. It was as if the biblical maxim Be fruitful
and multiply was a revelation writ just for them.

And we who were already born, the one of us,
the two of us, the three, four, five, six of us, looked on
in disbelief each time our mother grew round and rounder,
trundling through the nine long months of the latest pregnancy.

It seemed a kind of greed based on dissatisfaction,
this constant dipping and dipping into the Void; it seemed,
to me, at least, an abstract, yet intricate sin. Hadn’t we tried
to love them, to be everything sufficient to their desire: smearing

the chalky white polish, Sunday mornings, across the scuffs
of our shoes, earning the difficult A’s, the B’s, or homerun
after homerun? How many newspapers thwacked porches all along
the paper route; how many dishes diligently washed and dried?

You could not count the number of bedtime kisses we planted
on the cheeks of those adults. And yet, each time the new bundle
was laid in my arms while the bottle warmed on the stove, I could
only stare and stare at that delicate interloper; I could only watch

the slitted eyes slowly unseal themselves, watch them
darkly watching me. I would offer my knuckle to the working mouth,
the milk blister drawing me in. I would almost begin then to understand;
I would almost have it inside me then, the power to forgive.

This poem originally appeared in the Atlanta Review.