When you were born I was too,
stitched together from scraps.
I learned to walk just before you.
Sutures disappear, absorbed into skin
like a lost child we might never know.
It is the needle that numbs. It is
your body that allows us to forget.
I don’t have your powers of speed
and transformation, sprouting
blond hair from black, flyaway fine
and so light as to appear invisible;
growing bones and lengthening them
from nothing, from lips adhered
to skin. How do we know he’s eating?
is a common question of mothers
of breastfeeding babes. Weigh him.
And we did before and after nursing,
finding five minutes gave an ounce.
Your chins canopy then thin out.
Fingers unfurl and begin to work,
to reach, to grab, to transfer, especially
fond of tools, of paper, of pillow tags,
of air. Bars you pull to standing.
Distance you cross by body rolls,
sheer willful throw of arm and shoulder,
then a drag and scoot. Then
suddenly, suddenly (it is always
suddenly—like suddenly I could walk
again; suddenly I was healed) you are
rocking on hands and knees. You are
jumping, leapfrogging on dimpled legs,
one ready arm trembling, raised
but uncertain: where to land, how to land…
You are searching for a landing.
You have come to us from space, and I
will be ready, doctor. I will be ready.
THE OLD HAND
After my father turned the field into a pond,
then a wetland, the water went back to what
it was before: a meadow for the mill pond,
the stone that once ground everyone’s acres
buried in silt with the blind arrowheads,
the flint chips and rose handles of teacups,
the won marbles, missing buttons and wire.
The first family threw their trash down the hill.
Everyone did. So there were china bits,
eye-catching as candy, where the hoe turned up
the garden. Machines in the woods rusted,
washing and refrigeration in the sun
between pines. Except the dog
food cans. They ate the meat, the old hand
explained to me, the first family did, and too
proud to leave the empties by the road or even
toss them down the hill where the crows could
see (they have eyes like knives; they can spy
anything), the cans piled in the attic. We took
them out, new owners, fifty years later. We took
them out, and marveled at the colored labels,
illustrations of hungry, moon-eyed dogs.
The dogs must have watched the family
as they ate, each night more sullen and scared--
the faces changing, muting, fading
even now as we ushered them full into light.
Alison Stine is the author of two books of poems: WAIT (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011), and OHIO VIOLENCE (University of North Texas Press, 2009). She has work forthcoming in Better, Iron Horse Literary Review, and Zone 3.