Things I Will Tell My Children About Destiny

Cynthia Manick

                        You remind them
             of weighted tumbleweeds,
hen-egg brown. Don’t let
                        them take the rag-
             time beneath your skin.
        It stirs earth’s curvature
and a choir
of frogs 
when you enter
             or leave a room. Don’t
             leave a swallow of juice
                  or milk in the fridge.
A body grieved
is a whole new body.
             Give your shadow a name
                        big as a star, see
             yourself out loud.
Pick wild irises                         the best gifts
             roll under a ribcage, leave 
             open mouths splendid.

I like your smile unpenned.

Keep your bird-
             song close, imagine
                     an hourglass full
                         of architects and dreamers,
the first taste of fresh
             scooped ice cream.
                         You will learn to master
                         camouflage among ordinary things— 
             men who spill words
not thoughts, trigger fingers
                         ready
                         to brand loose.

I love your smile unpenned.
 

More by Cynthia Manick

A Taste of Blue

I tell my father about the way
I collect small things
in the sacs of my heart—

thick juniper berries
apple cores that retain their shape
and the click of shells
that sound like an oven baking.

He presses the mole on my shoulder
that matches his shoulder,
proof that I was not found
at the bottom of the sea.

I also got his feet, far from
Cinderella’s dainty glass slippers—
and fingers, too wide for most

Cracker Jack wedding rings.
I read how some mammals never
forget their young—

their speckled spots, odd goat
cries, or birthmarks on curved
ivory tusks. There must be some
thread of magic there

cooling honey to stone—where
like recognizes like or how
a rib seeks its twin.

Related Poems

Children Walk on Chairs to Cross a Flooded Schoolyard

Taytay, Rizal Province, Philippines
(based on the photo by Noel Celis)

Hardly anything holds the children up, each poised
mid-air, barely the ball of one small foot
kissing the chair’s wood, so
they don’t just step across, but pause
above the water. I look at that cotton mangle
of a sky, post-typhoon, and presume
it’s holding something back. In this country,
it’s the season of greedy gods
and the several hundred cathedrals
worth of water they spill onto little tropic villages
like this one, where a girl is likely to know
the name of the man who built
every chair in her school by hand,
six of which are now arranged
into a makeshift bridge so that she and her mates
can cross their flooded schoolyard.
Boys in royal blue shorts and red rain boots,
the girls brown and bare-toed
in starch white shirts and pleated skirts.
They hover like bells that can choose
to withhold their one clear, true
bronze note, until all this nonsense
of wind and drizzle dies down.
One boy even reaches forward
into the dark sudden pool below
toward someone we can’t see, and
at the same time, without looking, seems
to offer the tips of his fingers back to the smaller girl 
behind him. I want the children
ferried quickly across so they can get back
to slapping one another on the neck
and cheating each other at checkers.
I’ve said time and time again I don’t believe
in mystery, and then I’m reminded what it’s like
to be in America, to kneel beside
a six-year-old, to slide my left hand
beneath his back and my right under his knees, 
and then carry him up a long flight of stairs
to his bed. I can feel the fine bones,
the little ridges of the spine
with my palm, the tiny smooth stone
of the elbow. I remember I’ve lifted
a sleeping body so slight I thought
the whole catastrophic world could fall away.
I forget how disaster works, how it can turn
a child back into glistening butterfish
or finches. And then they’ll just do
what they do, which is teach the rest of us
how to move with such natural gravity.
Look at these two girls, center frame,
who hold out their arms
as if they’re finally remembering
they were made for other altitudes.
I love them for the peculiar joy
of returning to earth. Not an ounce
of impatience. This simple thrill
of touching ground.