For Elena at Twenty-Seven

I.

The “bright one” we named you
though at the time it was pure
sound that told us it was yours.

Now tall, now quick, now swathed in red or black
and always it seems to me in a rush
to elsewhere: work, the beach, the class

to take or teach, the bash called Low-end
Theory a blur out the door in torchlight hurried
hastily—oh how is it you have grown

to womanhood this fast? Was I really watching
as you sped down the hall or in your battered
car, your hand flung out flagging wind?

Bright window sun scatters in your wake
on a litter of purses jeans and blouses, on my kidnapped
leather Craftsman chair in the corner

of your room, your four poster bed piled high
with quilts and folded laundry on moving day
as I stand here in time and pause.

II.

I remember you, small child
sleeping on my chest, your curled

paws resting on my clavicles,
colic calmed at last.

Or your four-day fever spiking
fears of meningitis

in our chests.
No Shaker cradle, no night
rides in the Thunderbird in foothills

no crooning could calm your fierce
rage or could disengage

your belly from its pain
until by lamplight after midnight
I would wedge myself in the corner
of the couch and lay your burden

down upon my chest, my hands spread
on your heaving back until you slept.

III.

For months I yawned through traffic.
sleepwalked through work

napped on a desktop stacked high
with missed deadlines

opportunities to close the deals.
I’ll never know how many, can’t recall

the names, the numbers, the complaints
or cribbed notations in the margins.

They all have disappeared, but unlike you,
my bright one—gallivanting elsewhere—

I in your absence here can celebrate
your steady many million breaths

beyond those first few million, and your life
now not in lamplight but in spotlight

somewhere else, dancing, singing,
laughing, acting out your name.