Try Orion

Article Resources

Poetry: From the May/June 2008 issue | See all poetry



On Turning One

Untidy balance of belly and diaper,
my daughter stands in our living room
and shakes a piece of wrapping paper
with everything she’s got,
the way a father shakes a pen
before he tries again to sign his name.

Earth has returned with its blue light
to the space of her beginning.
She looks up, surrounded by balloons,
satisfied we are not traveling to another
room or floating upstairs. We are exactly
where she keeps us spinning.

One year ago she lay on a metal scale,
felt with her small nakedness the air
empty of body. She cried her first cries
and the nurse said it was a good thing
and that she liked the name. It means life,
I said, keeping my hands from reaching
toward shivering fists, shut eyes, skin
pale as a mist out of nowhere.

Zoey squawks, reaching for more paper.
We look up as a tiny blur
zips from the sky, an iridescent pinprick
framed in the window, sipping sugar water.
This much we know. The name for the red shimmer
around this hummingbird’s throat
is gorget, which sounds like gorgeous.
And the electromagnetic radiation
touching it is light.

- Derek Sheffield

Derek Sheffield served as the 2007 writer in residence at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Kentucky. He lives in Washington.