Why does such sweetness hover around us
when we’re with those girls?
And why are they so comically different?
Why, when you give the older one a little present,
like a colorful hair clip, or a polished shell,
does the younger one say thank you
after the older one merely turns and walks off?
I’ll never know why I prefer to sit near the older one’s feet
while reading the Times on my iPad, or Proust, for that matter,
as she stares at her own iPad, jabbing at it with her thumbs.
I don’t know what the floor plan of a house rotating on her screen
represents to the person she imagines herself to be,
or why the younger prefers face-to-face, begging us to play board games,
or why just sitting near the older one and occasionally stroking her feet
seems better (or more appreciated) than asking her questions.
So many things I simply don’t know,
like how many calories they need to eat to grow,
or when the snow will melt after this awful winter,
and, the older one demands that I explain,
whether that depends more on the temperature of the air or the angle of the sun.
For that matter, I don’t know what makes a personality,
or where one would look to find it.
I’ll never know if it makes a difference to the older one
that I sit near her at least, though we’re rarely talking,
or whether she feels my fingers on her feet as affection, annoyance,
or whether the younger one is hyper-alert to the people around her
just because the older one seems preoccupied, even oblivious,
and, if so, how that’s been arranged—some notice
left in the womb for the younger one’s cells to read?
So that’s why it makes no sense to answer the question
she annoys us with, Which one?
Because it’s less a matter of more, than of difficulty:
the extra effort required
to sit next to the child who seems so indifferent
and reach out, and touch her feet.
Alan Feldman’s latest collection is Immortality, published last March by University of Wisconsin Press. He has poems in the current issue of The Southern Review and forthcoming in Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Antigonish Review, Ascent, and Outlook Springs. He offers free weekly poetry workshops in Framingham, MA, and, in the summer, in Wellfleet on Cape Cod.