Questions My Son Asked Me, Answers I Never Gave Him

1. Do Gorillas have birthdays?

Yes. Like the rainbow, they happen.

Like the air, they are not observed.

2. Do butterflies make a noise?

The wire in the butterfly's tongue

hums gold.

Some men hear butterflies

even in winter.

3. Are they part of our family?

They forgot us, who forgot how to fly.

4. Who tied my navel? Did God tie it?

God made the thread: O man, live forever!

Man made the knot: enough is enough.

5. If I drop my tooth in the telephone

will it go through the wires and bite someone's ear?

I have seen earlobes pierced by a tooth of steel.

It loves what lasts.

It does not love flesh.

It leaves a ring of gold in the wound.

6. If I stand on my head

will the sleep in my eye roll up into my head?

Does the dream know its own father?

Can bread go back to the field of its birth?

7. Can I eat a star?

Yes, with the mouth of time

that enjoys everything.

8. Could we Xerox the moon?

This is the first commandment:

I am the moon, thy moon.

Thou shalt have no other moons before thee.

9. Who invented water?

The hands of the air, that wanted to wash each other.

10. What happens at the end of numbers?

I see three men running toward a field.

At the edge of the tall grass, they turn into light.

11. Do the years ever run out?

God said, I will break time's heart.

Time ran down like an old phonograph.

It lay flat as a carpet.

At rest on its threads, I am learning to fly.

From "Household Tales of Moon and Water" by Nancy Willard (Harvest/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: $6.95; 76 pp.). Willard, lecturer at Vassar College and instructor at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, has published short stories, poetry and essays for children and adults. In 1982, she won the Newbery Medal for "A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers." By permission of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

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