I am seventy, Otto is six months,
And yet he sits there in his Bumbo
Like an infant king, while we are ranged
Along the long pine table, his courtiers.
Otto’s mother, incidentally our daughter,
Serves him bits of grown-up food,
To which the boy responds with glee,
Although he only has two teeth.
Otto’s otherwise first-rate father
Has this weakness: he cannot bear
To witness the battlefield his child makes
Of pudgy flesh and Bumbo tray:
Strawberry smears across his cheek,
Apple sauce hair, beet bits leaking blood
All down his front, the gore, the crumbs,
Food scraps scattered everywhere.
And yet we all feel elevated by
The joy with which this small boy eats.
He gums a bite, saliva drips, he swallows,
Smiles, reaches for the heavens with both hands,
And hollers, “Allah!” releasing laughter
Like the clamor of church bells at a wedding
Or a coronation, which we join.
My goodness, I’m thinking, this
White German-American baby
Must be Muslim. Yet once the laughter
Of his subjects has subsided, Otto
Ingests a golden gobbet of squash, then
Reaches for the skies again, proclaiming,
“Baba!” And I see that I misheard the first time:
Not “Allah!” but “Baba!” Or was it “Abba!”
The Aramaic word that Christ is said
To have pronounced, crying for his Father
From the cross. But Otto is not suffering.
No, no. This is joy, as pure and plain
As the potato lump that Otto squishes
In his fist and feeds himself. “Baba!”
Definitely “Baba!” So the boy is Hindu
Or Sufi, maybe. Whatever his religion,
I repent my daily puling and complaining,
Wonderstruck that I’d forgot
The sunlight in the orange, the honeycomb
Of bread, the nectar that is milk.
There’s a gap in the laughter of my tablemates
As they turn their looks on me to see
Tears trembling in my eyelashes
And drip, drip-dropping on my plate.
Then all of us are laughing—yes, me, too—
Because I’ve been converted to
The Way of Food and Gratitude,
The Way of Baba, transported
Into the Kingdom of Gladness,
Where I intend to live forever.