. . . if I acted otherwise . . .—Charles Darwin, Notebook C
If his Grandfather had spared him the lyrics, the unbridled couplings of leaf, verb and verse. If the river had not flowed into meadows where a boy strayed with pebbles and sticks filling his pockets and the husk of whatever opening for a moment its world within him. His nose big as a fist and waiting for him to grow into it; beside the old gardener Abberley, the scent of moss and earth beneath his nails, as wings beat through the leaves and rain hyphenated the windows of all those afternoons that strayed into evenings curled beneath a table turning the pages of Robinson Crusoe. If those pages had never been turned. Scolded, minded and fussed about by sisters. If he had not thrown a marble and killed a hare, been spoiled by a nursemaid, lost his mother, lied about birds, a tiger on the stairs, felt the spark attention flared, persuaded polyanthuses and primroses to turn blue, run very fast, and sat down beside the Doctor on his way in a yellow carriage. If his father had not recorded every spoon, bushel and pound the household spent, frowned on carelessness, a string of detail left untied. If he had not watched a meadow made small by the sky or the wind shaking every soft fold, stammered through a maze of Latin and adored sweets; his dog's nose, [End Page 43] so little and dear as a button black and shining and poking through the gate. And if only he had not always had such difficulty pronouncing his w's.
Brent Pallas lives and works in New York City as an illustrator and craft/home project designer for magazines. His poetry has appeared in the Southern Review, 2RV, Beloit Poetry Journal, Poetry, Gettysburg Review, the New England Review and other journals.