The Perfect Thing

"I will never buy you a diamond."

Honestly it’s the perfect thing for them:
The boy sent out to hunt his wolf,
The girl who steps up after the war—
Modernity still missing its maturity ritual.
If ever I had an ideological doubt
Of this pedagogical proposition,
I settled it on that first date
In the Cafe Macondo, a hilariously
Sandalista-themed revolutionary space
On Sixteenth Street. By the second
I knew. I put her on the back of my bike
To go see Lantana, at the Embarcadero.
At Fremont we rolled past a billboard:
“The Shane Company—your friends
In the diamond business.” I opened my visor
And said: “I will never buy you a diamond.”
Perhaps a cheap virtue signal? Lord,
We were so young… the whole millennium
Was young—it was the dot-com bust.
I know what I would have done if I’d had to swim.
I very likely would have wound up at Google.
I was at Berkeley when the founders were at Stanford.
As soon as I heard, not even of Google, of search itself
I knew that it was something unbelievably dark
But could not process why. But in two months
I finally quit my shitty career
In pre-Apple smartphones,
And with my trivial fortune
From pre-Apple smartphones,
Let this new rock kick me into the unknown—
That black promise of space which is infinite,
Which tries to take your life once a minute
And whose consequences God has concealed—
Propelled by the cold confidence of monogamy.
Not that we married till she was pregnant;
Even this was the way of mine own people.
Did I mention that after the money ran out
She supported me for years? Our son could talk
In complete sentences, about dangerous persons
(You try having small kids in SF lol)
Before I made anything like a dime again.
All this, I am convinced, at least half because
Her father dropped dead in a race when she was eight.
I have scrutinized her yearbooks—with plenty
Of material, since she was always the editor—
Hers is always the serene and confident face,
Even under Olivia Newton-John hair.
Do not get your history from “300,” but
Every culture not fated soon to perish
Finds a way to send its kids into the woods—
Even we have the sniveling exercise
Of college admissions. Now, I would not say
The material does not matter. My daughter—
My wife, but woven with something darker—
At twelve in a teenage Julius Caesar
She was cast as Caesar!—I think of Pinsky’s line,
My teacher’s teacher: “uneasy in crowds
And making crowds uneasy”—now this iron,
Has it met the fire that must make it steel?
She has conquered no Gauls—but on Facebook,
Seizing her mother’s account sans permis,
Blossomed into a queen of receiving condolence—
If you sent me an email, you are still waiting.
She wishes you would read Stefan Zweig,
And is not indifferent to Tom Wolfe.
Then her brother: some boys get into
Baseball statistics—mine is obsessed with
Covid statistics. “India is spiking!”
Kim Stanley Robinson is too much
For him, but Larry Niven is right.
Yet when I bought him a toboggan
He assumed it was for standing up in.
To separate him from the world of pain
My friends taught him to snowboard.
I get a text: “an utterly fearless beast.”
In two days he was ready to try blue trails.
I have seen him take a kickoff, dribble
Around the whole other team, and shoot
(He missed). One spring he tried baseball;
He had never played; he batted a thousand;
And in every group is friends with everyone—
Such are the children Jen Kollmer made.
Realistically, neither will amount to anything:
Such is the world that she made them in.
He will be on Wall Street. She
Will set herself on fire—some kind
Of modern fire… can she light the world?
Here in the West, the winter was dry,
The straw of last spring still thick on the hill.
Bear no children! You are sending them straight
Into the fire—into a dry world, a world
Of straw, a world that was planted to burn—
A world in which those who prevail, for some
Always prevail—will be hardened by fire
And come bearing fire—and even most
Of these, go down in the inevitable flame.
Yet there is a chance—always a chance—
In this week have I learned the price of a chance.
“It’s like losing your virginity,” said one friend.
And for a grown man to be quenched in this bath:
One pearl whose waste should never be forgiven.