John Paul O’Connor
When you were born I was eating a plate of eggs
and potatoes 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 still would 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.
—from Rattle #33, Summer 2010