I think of the children who will never know, intuitively, that a flower is a plant’s way of making love, or what silence sounds like, or that trees breathe out what we breathe in.
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I never called her back, the woman
with the two babies born just like mine:
girls who couldn’t crawl or talk,
could barely smile, who lay there,
bundled in flowered dresses, staring
at the ceiling. Both had lovely,
extravagant names, like opera singers
or stars of the ballet. She wanted,
I imagine, to sit with me —
the only woman she knew
with a child like hers — and drink coffee,
stir it with silver spoons
as the steam rose to our tired eyes
and our babies lay there, inert
and beautiful, sucking their hands.
Was it so much to ask? She wrote
her number on a slip of paper,
put it in my palm. And week after week
I promised myself to triumph
in this one, small thing,
pictured her lifting the girls
into their beds at night, the way I did
with my son, or dropping the bitter
medicines into their open mouths,
perhaps alone, afraid. But
hadn’t lightning struck her twice?
I did what villagers have done for centuries
when they shun the widow,
the man with one eye.
I turned my back, kept her luck
from being added to mine.