Pilot Light
A Journal of 21st Century Poetics and Criticism
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Upon the Birth of Danica May Camacho

Crossing the Sheepscot

I steer out of an inlet, mostly pine, towing these very hours in which my son the Campione del mondo sleeps and dinner will have to wait: my own bodily memory of pulling soon laid down ahead of one paddle, digging into water, fulcrumed at the sternum, its twin digging into air, milling into an afterlife I can see—a minutia of surges cut into wind-rips, from the sternum one arm is for water, one for air, winding myself a strand to the cord, my dragging laid down before me into worse rips, before a far wood-line should split in three and Hell’s Mouth open all the world, alone, for me.

Poetry and the seven billionth person

I tow these very hours in which Danica May Camacho sleeps. Though, I think of little else but the strokes themselves, eye and ear forward, attentive to the immediate current and to the distant shoreline, every oar a thought in readinessi, for my boat will tolerate little agitation: looking back or overleaning to either side. I compel it to the right or to the left, or I can let it drift as I did that day on the Sheepscot, following the tide’s swell inland to reach Hockomock Bay in time to follow the tide out again. I can move upstream to “widen” a mouth and see more deeply into estuary. But the parallax error will open other mouths, islands slide open as a doors.

I enter towing these very hours in which Danica May sleeps. She is nowhere visible or calling for me, far away as she is in Manila and not my daughter. The thought of her is close behind me, as I cross these waters. It means I desire the world ahead also partly for her. I approach a shoreline that opens many mouths, weighing one entrance against another.

I tow the hours in which she is colicky, she sleeps through the night, she sits up, she won’t eat, she eats, she is weaned, she speaks, though we are uncertain which word comes first: is it Mamma, is it Pretty, she is bringing a piece of bark to her mouth, she’s thinking about putting a guitar pick in her mouth, she is toddling toward a glass, toward an open door and I pull—. I tow the door, I tow the stairs that fall from it, I tow her mother who snatches her up in time, or does not.

If I am an American poet, it is a singed and regenerous country that follows me. I choose a mouth to enter, a poem, leaning always after beauty, desiring also on Danica May’s behalf—that she see it. In any one poem, to choose the mouth. The islands slide open and closed, mouths open and close. The miracle is that the gap, narrow as an image contained in a few lines, sometimes narrow as a word, might allow this flotsam. It permits us voyage. I think of Whitman’s Brooklyn Ferry passing through “Scilla et Caribdiii.” I think of a “system to pointing” in Stein, or the “road to the contagious hospital” in Williams. I think of “No stroke wide from your side.” I think “and and and.” Think “pried / open, “lonely offices, “I tried each thing…” Think “the flesh / opens endlessly.” I think of “ferns” in a recent poem of Carl Phillips. Our art, as always—narrowing inlets, immenser bays.