They sit behind me, unseen, the small girl’s
voice in my ear naming things in Spanish.
I picture hair and eyes dark as the mood I’m in,
belly of the whale. Grande, grande, grande,
she chirps with so much joy I smile
without even thinking I should be sad.
Like Jonah I am spewed forth on a wave.
The sun is back, the blinds are raised.
What an unexpected gift—to be a little less
bereft. I return to my book, a novel
of Italy between wars, the hero a socialist
disguised as a priest. Absorbed
in his travels by mule and cart, at first
I don’t notice the quiet. Somewhere,
that voice buoyant as cork is naming
what she sees, activating delight
in neighbor or stranger. On the escalator.
In the street. Wrapped in her mother’s arms.