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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Sunday, January 17, 2010

For Kaya

You are three days short of a year, three-hundred
sixty-five days ago your fists coiled inside me;
your tiny feet kicked my ribs as I circled this
same icy pond. You squirmed out
in a flurry of snow, a splash of blood,
a caesura of time. I meant to record it.
I meant to anthologize your every move.
But I chose your plump warmth
over the skinny pen. The thick black book
with your name sits in a pile of things I moved
out of your persistent, brave and sticky reach—

I wanted to remember when you first laughed
in Colorado, your grandmother was tickling
you on the carpet. Machine gun staccato.
You surprised yourself. Weren’t sure how
to repeat it. Or how your cousins in Israel
taught you to say hello with the same toy phone
your father played with as a child. How you would
do it over and over across the world; hairbrushes,
remote controls, socks and even air would become
receivers at your ear. When you started dancing,
first to Van Morrison in my arms, later Amy Winehouse,

in the jumperoo, and your father swears you sway
to opera with a sense of serious calm. You dance
on your own now to the CD your aunt bought
San Francisco, your face lights at the familiarity
when the same voices meet your Brooklyn home.

I used to write about a small animal
that lived like a knot in my gut.
It was small and dark and had swallowed
my joy. Over and over I knocked on
locked doors, trying to find you. The year
Before the year you began, a woman felt
you in my toes. A little girl she said,
But wait. You need a layer first
around that raw heart.

I could never imagine the way you trumped
all that. You’ve no time for the slowness
of poetry, the brooding of autumn leaves.
Pages best be thick, or velvety, and smell
like spices and fruit. We call you monkey
because right away you reached for what
you wanted. I have to swallow
my city self and smile at the friends
you make across the crowded subway.
You are nothing I could have thought of.
Happy Birthday my sweet Kaya Hope.