To Fill in the World

Since you arrived,

dear niece, I imagine every knee-high girl

as you in a few years. Case in point—

at the steakhouse last night

mid-forkful of Caesar salad,

the man with the broad back had his back

facing me in the booth, but across from him

at my 9 o’clock, on a booster seat,

a girl of about four. In a hot pink parka,

she swung her feet above the floor,

brandishing her brick red crayon

across ashy coloring pages.

Her focus,

magnetic. Her yellow-brown curls twirled

as she push-

push-pushed her crayon tip through

outlines of a friendly fish, her tongue dipped

half-way in, halfway-out, halfway-in

in concentration. She never sees me.

Already, the years melt

down to when the pages were mine—

I’ve squiggled outside dark outlines

more than a few times in making this life mine.

Already the years unspool

in green, orange, purple scribbles. Someday

soon, we’ll kneel at a coffee table together,

an empty cardboard carton between us,

eager to fill in the world you’ll make

vibrant with choices.

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