Counting

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

2017

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