In 1965, in his studio in Warsaw, Roman Opalka, a French born painter of Polish origin, began painting a process of counting – from one to infinity. All details have the same title, 1965/1-00; the idea does not date although the artist has pledged his life to its execution: ‘All my work is a single thing, the description from number one to infinity. A single thing, a single life.’
So many little things,
said one of the angels who pulled herself up
in the middle of a very large city
as a moon rolled down the street
chased by a tiny dog, barking loudly of course,
causing the birds to fly away, one group after another.
All that remains of a beautiful star:
a small girl with yellow hair.
She belonged to a constellation no one has ever seen.
She lives in a house that is too small
for her mother and too large for her father.
One of them will leave soon
and make her immensely sad.
Bent over an immaculate piece of machinery,
the semi-conductor physicist with golden hair
is viewing the smallest particles in the world.
Outside the clean room, the dust of ancient worlds
and enormous cities and small towns collect,
and beyond that, the smallest dreams and questions,
those too weak yet to take a plane
from Slovakia to the center of the world;
in spite, the little angel stands on tip-toes,
a bit of broken star, a bit of broken heart,
who by degrees, with the help of birds
and swollen moons, will one day exclaim,
the children think everything is too big,
that is why they are in such a hurry.
So many little things, she said, as she slipped
the head of a pin
into her electron microscope.
Poem For My Children
What does this brick want to be? It wants to be something greater than it is. – Louis Kahn
We’ve built the little walls and roof And made a lovely door, So tell us mother Wendy, What are you wanting more? – J.M. Barrie
I asked this paper what it wished to be.
It replied, A poem for your children, mother Wendy.
Darling boys I was lost
in a black and white movie,
a gray girl, the sky a paler version of my hair,
then out of the blue,
you gave me yellow,
my shoes blushing red,
the city up ahead
rumored to have a wizard,
two little boys sit at a breakfast table,
slipping the wedges of an orange
into their mouths to bare like teeth
My life was as quiet as a man reading a newspaper
until the moment I heard you cry–
it wasn’t my name you called,
but the most genuine word I had ever heard,
your cries for a mother filled the rooms
like the music of the great composers,
flowers from Holland made a garden of the house
(your tulips the most dear to me)
an itinerant ocean unfolded in the backyard,
as a wild horse galloped its grassy beach
to the astonishment of a local squirrel
and always me,
the girl who wanted to be ballerina,
my life that was once a brick,
is now a basilica;
to watch you jump in the driveway,
is to feel like Michelangelo, mug of coffee in hand,
stepping from the bright winter light into the sanctuary
to look up at his ceiling.
Wendy Wood Kwitny’s book, House of Affection, was published by The Sheep Meadow Press in 2004.