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The Gift

By Lise Kunkel

Gina and Billy came to dinner Saturday
Bringing pictures of our daughter:
Three weeks old, hooked to machines,
A fine hair covering her stick-like body,
Her thin arm draped across ventilator tubing.
Images of a wizened old woman
Rice paper skin over bone.

Zoe, born fifteen weeks early wild and feisty
In her aboriginal days
Revealed infinite more patience than I.
Yet sometime that first week she caught me aware
Of her tiny fingers pressed together
One hand open, palm up, the other gently fisted.
She made slow ritual movements.

Surely born to the art of magic,
She seduced me conjured a spell
So charming, I was able to meet her.
Recognition of my voice, my touch
To bend limber beyond my stretch.
I opened to her then
Finally present.

Here at home, as I cradle Zoe safe and whole,
I am aware of the spell,
A contract now between us.
These black and white images,
Placed before me, stark, enlarged
Buck against my memory.
I cannot recall that child.


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