My friend C. sent me this poem a few months ago. It was written by Grace Schulman.
The Present Perfect
I saw the cells on tv, as they swam
up to the egg, tails lashing, and I heard
the wind-tunnel sound they make, the steady hum
of thousands, blind, threadlike, worn, but soaring
through waterfalls in their drive to live, move
and set the egg revolving like a star.
For us, there was no miracle of birth.
No genes, no geniuses. And yet, OK,
we had other things: our work, our history
scrawled on Margaux labels and libretti,
and, after all, no cribs, no sticky plums,
no pulling paper napkins, one by one,
from a metal box, to mop up dumped ice cream.
But then again, no immortality:
in my religion, children to speak my name
after I am. No heir to your kindness,
your skill with a kite, your father's whimsy,
or to my mother's mother's diamond pin.
And yet, we had each other's silences;
freedom to wander with no fixed plan,
now fixed in photos of sylphs that resemble us,
peering down cliffs in Brittany at ragged boards
floated up from dinghies lost at sea,
searching for fish carved into chapels' altars,
spending our suns like out-of-date coins,
until we reached the present-perfect tense--
that have-been state where past and future merge:
We have been married thirty-four years.
I see the kids we were frisk on the lawn
in the late afternoon's unnameable light.
Too late for them, and for their unborn kids,
but not too late for us, here among cedars,
to praise the fires in rose petals on slate;
white rhododendrons, a fountain's rainbow.
I see the dot of you, meadows away,
that grows in sight as you pedal home;
your reddish hair and beard, now tarnished silver,
that once we wanted for a chromosome;
your silhouette in a Manet-like straw hat
as you bless your new astilbe: "Live and be well,"
casting aside your customary questions
for an irrational faith the plant will grow;
I hear your voice that calls me to see wildflowers
poking through the gravel cracks in our neighbors' driveway,
slender but fortunate, built to last their day.