Since infancy, she was always counting
eyes glinting, unfurling fingers one to ten
soon discovered – twenty, thirty, eighty, ninety.
Feet twinkling, walking, running, little legs
pushing forwards, backwards on carousels,
swings. Her invisible Swiss clock ticking away
inside – one hundred, two hundred, a thousand.
Higher, higher, flying over trees and rooftops
up there above the world, counting the birds
a colorful pendulum in jeans and pink tee shirt.
Six thousand four hundred and twenty two
coming to rest, jumping off, scampering away
into my fading nostalgia, my eyes misting up
finding her there again.
She would sit with her sister in the back seat
counting the white cars that passed by, then the
black ones, street lamps, traffic lights
all the way home.
As a teenager she counted number of galaxies
largest prime numbers, species of plants in
rain forests, pimples on boys’ faces.
Perhaps she never reached adulthood, never
counted the young men queuing up to ask her out
perhaps she never married, never adventured
beyond the bounds of my imagination, never
counted diapers, school uniforms, classes missed
degrees labored over, infidelities, arguments
fights, tears, disappointments, break-ups.
Perhaps she never existed at all – the thought
chills my blood – never was hospitalized for some
minor surgery, tonsillectomy or appendectomy
as I sat there counting the hours until her recovery
then unbelievingly seeing the surgeons downfallen
face, hearing again his explanations of what went wrong
again and again, day after day, year after year
echoing in my ears.
In the journeys of our lives there are many byways – places
where the path splits up and divides. Yes that’s right!
This leaf-covered path between the trees. Here it is – a
red-roofed cottage with a veranda where she sits, now in
her nineties, writing her journal, counting her children,
grandchildren, great grandchildren…
Perhaps this poem is my only memory of her
- or someone else altogether.
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© Johnmichael Simon