Last Small Gift
for Zackie, 1982-1984
He always noticed high things––
His long fingers
pointed to small things,
moving things, things that needed to be eaten,
people who should leave the room.
He gave second chances.
Even after I bit his finger
along with the cookie he offered as a token of friendship,
and even after the stout and lengthy
cry of outrage in his mother’s arms,
in two or more additional meetings,
he was willing to start over again,
this time from the middle,
at becoming friends.
He never held out his arms to me.
He never cried when I left the room.
Yet he shared with me,
along with a glimpse of a heart that could still break,
all of the pleasures first experienced
which I had once felt,
and some long glances where neither looked away.
Usually, I felt that in between his own needs
he knew everything there was to know about me,
this wise baby,
so that when he rejected me,
I knew it was for good reason.
And when he accepted me,
I felt I’d gained character.
Maybe I found it irresistible
that I had to earn his allegiance,
so that I felt flattered by it—
like the first girl chosen from the bench at a dance.
that I never knew well enough.
This baby who never noticed the toys I brought him.
This baby who reigned
from the corner of my sofa
under his pointed birthday hat,
never learned to say my name.
But he held something old for me in his eyes.
that some of the mysteries are left in a life
where most of the presents have been opened,
revealing objects less precious
than the surprises they came wrapped up in.