by Eric Chaet
The baby’s head fits in my cupped hand.
She sleeps, completely relaxed, on my lap.
Her mother has dressed her in a one-piece pink outfit.
Her cells are growing & multiplying,
& her brain is making connections:
the smell of milk & where to get it,
light, colors, shapes, sounds, movements—
up, down, angles & curves;
front & back; hands, feet, fingers.
She’s no sapling or caterpillar—
she’ll have to learn to cooperate to fulfill herself,
with individuals who have learned, in turn,
well or poorly, slightly or a lot,
to cooperate & fulfill themselves
in love, in friendship, in their work.
No one can completely dominate,
& not dominating leaves you open to being used—
how far is the cooperating to go?
There are criminals & neurotics among us—
some highly respected, others disreputable—
who have no intention of cooperating
& would live off her efforts,
keep her down so she won’t compete for resources,
take what she needs to thrive, or even survive.
But if she doesn’t learn to cooperate,
with her contemporaries, & ancestors & descendants, too—
to contribute, & share in others’ contributions—
& to set shrewd limits, to protect herself,
without limiting her range of action unnecessarily—
she’ll fall short of the goals she’ll yearn to attain,
her life will be one of the many wasted lives—
the meaning of her efforts never crystallized—
whether others, who can only ever partially understand,
think & speak well of her, or not.
emerging self / bildung series