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Sarah,4:30 A.M.

ISSUE:  Spring 1995

Robin-song loud at the bedroom window,
a three-note descant

over the weak groundnote of my newborn
daughter’s milk-cry.

She nurses, I lie waiting my turn at
the changing table,

the bird’s variations wash over our bodies
in pre-dawn dark:

Rich or poor, the song goes, better, worse,
sickness and death

it comes down to this separate piece
of self and wife

that lies by our bed in a wicker basket
dividing each night

into three-hour wakes. Limp, milk-heavy,
she’s handed to me.

Grief, I think, has the voice of a robin
but its hands are human:

each touch of my daughter already part
of an ongoing goodbye

for the way she’ll quicken through dependence
into a country

I won’t be living in. Grief, at my age, grows
full-sized in seconds—

in my arms this morning, she seems already
memorial, forgone.

I carry her downstairs to the changing table.
My bare feet count

the steps down, my arms balance us both,
but it’s her need

carrying me.I’m not a monk carrying water,
dawn after dawn,

to a shrine. I can save her from nothing. She
is not my elegy.

I take the steps. It’s not the robin-song
that’s changing me.


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