Dad takes out the microscope
from a dusty old suitcase
and sets it up on the kitchen table.
Once again I’m six years old
and we are living near the lake
where he takes me out with a net and a vial
to collect the water together.
He shows me how to make a slide,
how to focus the lens, how to steady
my eye and how to be patient
and wait for the tiny world
to reveal itself.
My son and daughter are with us
today, and he takes them out
to the waterway with the net
and the vial and all their curiosity.
I’d forgotten how miraculous it feels
to look into a droplet and find
a universe with slender strands
and tiny spiraled globs of green
and all the unseen critters seen,
their eyeless, mouthless,
heartless forms nudging
at the algal threads or speeding
across and off the slide.
How big the world seems then,
and how very, very small—
how hard it is to know
where we fit into it all—
this world with its car bombs
and militant groups, adventure
movies and evening news,
Jupiter high in the springtime sky
and under the microscope,
single-celled things zooming
and worming and meandering.
Who could make sense of it?
How simple to be one of these
small creatures I can’t name,
how simple it was to be that girl,
six years old, beside her father
on the microscope bench
dropping beads of water
onto the slides, kneeling on her chair,