Nests are not thrown together,
but carefully assembled,
knit together piece by piece,
knots on a string of choices
a snippet at a time, a straw, a twig,
slips and strips of yarn and threads,
feathers, down and seaweed,
stems of weeds and flower heads -
industry and patience yoked
together toward common end.
No drawing board, no architect or plan,
no preconception evident;
this hatches from its own intelligence,
its own egg, this idea of nest,
to begin this duet of certainty
to flesh these ideas out.
Predestined partners in this now,
basketweaving Yin and Yang
absolutely bound to coincide.
In their flights of Maypole spiraling
he selects the territory, she the site.
In their magic, how do they know
when nest is done?
When the egg is in it.
So it is beyond these fences
within broader boundaries
that can’t be weighed or measured
Sweat, for instance,
between two bodies slippery in their heat,
careless in the transience of their lust.
She can’t hear the skeins of sound
loosed by their embrace - she’s deaf,
but he is deafer
to things far subtler than sound,
the silent sire who first begot
and then was not.
Vacationing from pain,
as far away as she can get,
self-medicating doctor explores by eye
horizon across Belfast Bay
from her chair upon the porch,
scans the nearer islands,
enjoys her stereopticon of reverie:
images as brief as blinks
blended with the butterfly effects
of all her history.
Some say god is in the details,
stepping stones to excellence;
others say the devil’s there
to seek or cause the finest flaw
and thwart the scheme of things.
The essence of the universe
might be the sum of details.
What’s a person or an egg,
but a smaller sum of all of these?
“Tea or coffee, Miss?”
asked deaf Alice with a voice
like cracked parchment or burnt skin,
as if she’d practiced sound from reading letters only,
or ordered from a catalog
without ever having heard a word.
Her attempt at speech
a willful feat;
no one knew but her.
Interpreting, the doctor ordered,
with soundless lips
while pointing at the menu.
Hearing with her eyes
the waitress turned to fetch the tea
with sugar and with lemon
having clearly in her mind
a picture of the three.
As Alice set the service,
the doctor asked with gestures:
how far along was she?
Five fingers, then three
followed by a bent one
made it clear enough.
Two weeks or so to go
and she looked it;
she was very round.
Compelled by curiosity
and an educated guess,
the doctor sought the manager
indulging a suspicion
forming in her mind.
“Unmarried, true, her second such,
destined for adoption, too.
A good employee, honest, cheerful,
hard working, sober when she is,
all of that is why I hired her
and why I’ll keep her on
when this is over.
No, no kin I know of
except her baby soon,
and she’s not up to that,
not for lack of love, I’m sure,
but hers is such a heavy handicap,
misunderstood and borne alone,
it’s all that she can carry:
her own, of course,
and the burden of the child.”
The doctor listened carefully,
asked more questions,
measured size and weight
of her speculation.
Of the mother’s siblings,
she learned, two of three were deaf at birth as well.
Unanswered and unanswerable:
will the baby hear?
When she’d made her phone call,
once she’d passed the story on
to her childless friends
further down the map
the deal breaker loomed larger
than the hope within the deal.
Time, so eloquent and final,
will tell - about the hearing;
time always does.
The childless couple,
in a maze of desperation,
once the news had reached them,
felt the stress that lay in haste.
Driven toward a prompt decision
by a rising sense of incompletion,
childlessness, a given, keenly felt,
their expectation already focused
intensely on another baby
they’ve been negotiating for,
due later by a month or more.
They’d now have a choice of two,
the Maine child
is now first in line,
but with the cast iron caveat:
it must hear perfectly.
Now, so much to do:
lawyers and the principals,
clear contract with no maybes,
with provision for return,
weighing the hospital’s merits,
assuring best postnatal care,
arranging all other services,
getting estimates as feasible,
arranging payment of each bill as due.
Picking out a wardrobe?
For which, a boy, or a girl?
Too early. Patience, patience.
The baby will remain in residence
until its health is verified and stable,
its hearing certified by possibly a second opinion
and unknown things:
overlooked, unexpected, or forgotten.