Suspended from a nail,
a brown, spiny starfish glistens with gloss,
two arms, two legs, spread wide
the fifth, a body and face, like a Christ-man on the
cross. Tenderly, thumb and index finger trembling,
she lifts him into my outstretched palm
"Mom, is this a real starfish?"
She is strangely calm.
Black painted buttons shine off his diskplate
on the undersurface where his mouth
once slurped up food particles
funneled in synchrony
through long, sweeping tentacles
in perfect, radial symmetry.
A tiny starfish, a baby Santa holds her hostage
she sighs, traces outlines, in and out, five times.
How can I console my child?
"You know, echinoderms regenerate.
One arm and disk grows back
into a whole new starfish!"
Underneath a miniature pine
fat, jolly guys, arms outstretched,
in caps, gloves and black buttons,
consort with laughing snow girls
dressed in tantalizing white
in a red light district of Bethlehem.
She looks at her feet,
at the basket of crucified starfish
awaiting reincarnation into ornaments, magnets,
she looks in my eyes,
her face implacable, unyielding,
and then -- she smiles -- in compassion for me.
Pub Date: 12/23/96