Most of us are never conceived.
Many of us are never born—
we live in a private ocean for hours,
weeks, with our extra or missing limbs,
or holding our poor second head,
growing from our chest, in our arms. And many of us,
sea-fruit on its stem, dreaming kelp
and whelk, are culled in our early months.
And some who are born live only for minutes,
others for two, or for three, summers,
or four, and when they go, everything goes—the earth, the firmament—
and love stays, where nothing is, and seeks.
Where this poem came from, I'm not sure. I think I was daydreaming about our species—every potential member of it who ever lived or didn't. And about miscarriages, and babies born with sometimes insurmountable challenges.
When I wrote the first line, I didn't know where the poem would go. (I think it would not have gone where it did if I had not known families in which a child died.)
And then I was putting poems together into a new book—my "mother book"—One Secret Thing. A lot of the poems are personal, and I didn't want the book to feel as if it was about just one set of lives. And this poem, "Everything," sort of rose to the top, to put at the beginning of the book, like a dedication.
The poem wasn't about an "I"; it looks outward. And maybe that's something that we become more able to see as we get older—or I may be a late bloomer—that love looks outward, toward the other. What we love most truly isn't our own condition (as parent, or child, or partner, or friend) of being in love, but the actual other people, with their mysterious intransigent natures!