Little Apophat

Jenny Johnson

Your child is a little lion cub

ready to tear into

a hunk of antelope is

a fuse bursting into

electric sprays of light

is trouble, you

say, like me. Has

your eyes though, pale

as the eggs of quail.

Yes. And also, shouting

No! as I reach for her balled fist

I wonder if she is

our negative capability.

Dare I say she’s beautiful

or that seeing another photo

I feel inexplicably like a father

though I am nothing other

than an ex-girlfriend

falling in and out of touch?

Dare I say I like to study

not her features exactly,

but all her small perfect shadows?

Her sleeves like swallow’s wings,

the oblong ring she casts

moving down a slide,

some latent echo inside you

now there of me, some remnant

of the night we longed to

against the drum of a water tower,

but did it instead again and again

on a bed too small for one.

Would it stretch wonder

if all our immaterial actions

like wayfaring dreams could sire

the ambition that ignites

when we let a child sit

too long with her own design,

let her stack blocks

one cube at a time, sturdy as

a well-pointed chimney

or a giraffe’s dorsal spine

or a tower of solid cheerleaders

kneeling into sweaty backs and thighs,

until the pyramid’s gotten too high

and without warning

all the bodies tumble down,

laughing. Look at how

we make so much out of nothing!

Little Nothing,

dare I tell you

what your mother and I made?

Firsts and fights

that left the kitchen

whitened by a fine silt of flour

and bras twisted into

the untidy nests of lyre birds

and closety love

at the drunken end of straight parties,

in cemeteries

and in shower stalls.

Without sheet music

we were prodigious,

learning by ear and mouth

how to produce

each vocal score,

and when we were done

and we felt like making more,

we made it. And we made

sweet, fast nothings

with other people, too.

Little Apophat,

I could tell you stories of

scientific miracles,

late ovulation in garter snakes,

the courting rituals of macaques

playing hide and seek

behind tree trunks,

how when seals stay out to sea

months after mating

biologists call all that waiting

suspended animation.

Which is to say that

making you took time.

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