This poem is dedicated to Alina Karimova, who was born with severely deformed legs and five fingers missing. Alina loves to draw mermaids and believes her fingers will eventually grow out.
Although I am only four years old,
they say that I have an old soul.
I must have been born long, long ago,
here, where the eerie mountains glow
at night, in the Urals.
A madman named Geiger has cursed these slopes;
now, shut in at night, the emphatic ticking
fills us with dread.
(Still, my momma hopes
that I will soon walk with my new legs.)
It’s not so much legs as the fingers I miss,
drawing the mermaids under the ledges.
(Observing, Papa will kiss me
in all his distracted joy;
but why does he cry?)
And there is a boy
who whispers my name.
Then I am not lame;
for I leap, and I follow.
(G’amma brings a wiseman who says
our infirmities are ours, not God’s,
that someday a beautiful Child
will return from the stars,
and then my new fingers will grow
if only I trust Him; and so
I am preparing to meet Him, to go,
should He care to receive me.)