As a boy, Charlie Darwin was given to invention—not
the criss-cross of wires that lead to electricity, no,
he left the gadgetry to his brother, whose hands
were smaller, better suited to fine-tuning. Instead,
Charlie invented stories. You might say this is the first
kind of experiment any of us perform—planting
certain carefully concocted ideas in the minds of our fathers,
to watch his face purple and curl like a rotting eggplant.
And Charlie, fastidious from the first, kept track of the numbers—
how many unexpected guests imminently arriving, how many
rare volumes of pharmaceuticals soaked through with spilled
tea, how many silver fruit knives you must report missing
to make him lift you by one gnarled hand like a kitten, to breathe
his warm chicory breath into your face until you sneeze with fright.
Katie Willingham is a Zell postgraduate fellow in poetry at the University of Michigan where she was the recipient of a Hopwood Prize and a Nicholas Delbanco Thesis Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Kenyon Review, Phoebe, Phantom Limb, and others.