I don’t remember when I clipped it. It’s a column inch and extends just a quarter inch below the fold. It is cream now, not white, not yet yellow. Not brittle.
I imagine it must have been around President Clinton’s second inauguration. Miller, an Arkansas native, read for that event. That makes it 1998. Why I clipped it is another question. I cannot say. I do not remember. Really, I have no idea.
I found it while going through some file folders at my office. Most all of the contents were disposed of. This bit of newsprint certainly was incongruous with the receipts and forms and other papers in the Pendaflex.
I pulled it out and read it. Quite good, I thought. Quite nice. No particular effect other than appreciation of the poetry and wonder at what made me cut it out of the newspaper eleven years earlier. I left it on the back desk of our reception area until I figured out what to do with it. Why not throw it away? Filing it again would be silly.
A Poem for Emily by Miller Williams
Small fact and fingers and farthest one from me,
a hand’s width and two generations away,
in this still present I am fifty-three.
You are not yet a full day.
When I am sixty-three, when you are ten,
and you are neither closer nor as far,
your arms will fill with what you know by then,
the arithmetic and love we do and are.
When I by blood and luck am eighty-six
and you are someplace else and thirty-three
believing in sex and god and politics
with children who look not at all like me,
sometime I know you will have read them this
so they will know I love them and say so
and love their mother. Child, whatever is
is always or never was. Long ago,
a day I watched awhile beside your bed,
I wrote this down, a thing that might be kept
awhile, to tell you what I would have said
when you were who knows what and I was dead
which is I stood and loved you while you slept.
That was a month ago. Maybe two. Since then my son and his intended have become pregnant. At first the decision was to wait. Spend some time with it and decide. We, my wife and I, were nervous. We were upset. We were worried. Then, the decision was to terminate. Then it was not. Keep the child? Adoption? My son would be about nine months younger than I when our first child was born. Certainly it can be done. We started to look forward to it. We started to feel a bit excited. Why not? We can help. It would work.
The decision was made, by the two of them, to put the child up for adoption. “It isn’t a good time to have a child.” When is? “It isn’t going to be easy.” When is it? “How could we do this?” We’ll make it work.
The decision stands. She is beginning to show. Yesterday we saw a sonogram of the child. I have not held a sonogram before. We didn’t have one done for either of our children. A small slip of paper. There is the baby. A bit more than two months into getting herself out. Her? Him?
Today I saw the poem again. Under some inventory papers. I read it. This time, I cried.