At fourteen I learned to sail—
The difference between true wind and gale.
I learned that babies do not come from prayer
And wondered if we were all wanted,
As my mother often said.
At fourteen, I stopped myself from caring
What kids on the bus thought of me,
Or whether I ate school lunch alone.
How unnecessary had been all that fear,
When I learned that I liked myself
Without their praise.
At fourteen, I learned that other girls
Cared only about pimply boys
And the dates, rings and ownership each claimed.
What a small, unexceptional life, I thought!
But at fourteen, I was too selfish
To pity them, much less humor their desires.
At fourteen, I realized that my dad was imperfect,
When he dodged the excise tax on his car.
Did he commit this tiny sin to rebel
Against an unappreciative wife,
Or did he feel the vicissitudes of life
As I had just begun to do?
At fourteen, the world was opening
Like a lotus flower in a teacup,
Soon to spill over and fill my soul
With longing for passion and logic,
But for something else ineffable.
I would find in later years
That the wanting itself could be enough
To stir those depths into song or quiet joy.
Of all the things in my soul and mind
And in the world beyond, I would learn,
That the only absolute is inexplicable—
The only perfect, human thing is love.