Le nez de Cléopatre, s'il eut été plus court,
toute la face de ta terre aurait changé.
-- Pascal, Pensées
If my nose had been shorter, my entire life
would have turned out different.
Mine was a June egg, that much I know,
but which of two hundred million spermatozoa
whipped its ambitious tail faster, faster,
and made it to the ovum first?
One more kiss in that noisy bed, one more
creak of the springs and I could have been
somebody else: blue eyes, red hair. If my father
hadn't come to this country when there was
still time, I'd be speaking Russian
or sunk in the ditch at Babi Yar. If my mother
hadn't stepped out on the porch
where he could quietly
give her the eye. If I
had met you, love, when we were young,
this nose of mine
notwithstanding. If I could decipher
that dream of yours and know
how many years we have left,
fat years or lean --
If your grandma had balls,
my father would shrug in his Russian Yiddish,
she'd be your grandpa.
-- first published in Field