The Agility of Chopsticks | wisconsinacademy.org
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The Agility of Chopsticks

                        By age three everything’s in place.
There’s a closet for storing language
with all the nouns and verbs on hooks and hangers
knowing their places, who comes first
and who must stay back, how to make plurals,
with an ‘s’ we romancers and English speakers
assume, but in some languages plurals are
intuited.   By age three, my daughter knew all this
in a dialect of Cantonese, which she spoke
flawlessly in her little girl voice.
                        By age three there’s a shelf for utensils—
forks or chopsticks or spoons.
We know how to use the proper one by age three.
Except my daughter hadn’t graduated from spoons.
There were so many replicas of her, too many
to teach around a family table the agility
of chopsticks.
                         By age three there’s a whole drawer of memories
all tangled together like brightly colored
silk scarves tossed recklessly atop each other
hard to sort out, my daughter trying to reach
into the drawer that seems to have no sides or
bottom once she puts her hand in, trying to
capture a scarf, whole cloth, something of her
time before she met us, before age three. 

 

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Karen Loeb finished a two-year run May 2020 as Eau Claire’s Writer-in-Residence. Retired from teaching creative writing at UW-EC, she writes poetry and fiction at home in a room with artwork, including a David Hockney lithograph discovered in a resale store.

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