Doing good doesn’t always work out the way you planned it.

You want to save the world, and you end up at an office job.

You want to help kids, and you find yourself shown up by a middle schooler who you’re supposed to be tutoring, but whose mathematics is better than yours. (You end up going to a movie instead.)

Someone asks you to do a random act of kindness. Just one day. It could be anyone, anything, at any time.

But the lady behind you on the line at Starbucks is wearing a coach bag. At the dog park, for once there’s no evidence of anything dog parents have ‘accidentally’ left behind. And the elderly man getting off  the elevator looks like he is enjoying what time he’s got left to walk unsupported, even if his legs do shake a little as he goes.

Or you sign up to volunteer at a hospital.

Once a week you go there, walk in past the wheelchairs and oxygen tanks, past the families on couches eating vending machine snacks, past the updates being passed on from cell phones, past the air made up of so many people holding their breath, and the sound of past and present laughs and tears and whispers, past the doors that people have walked through once – or a hundred times.

But there’s not much good to do.

You give a blanket to a mother who’s fallen asleep by her son’s bedside. You take a message to a patient’s friend. You ask if the sibling would like some toys. You get them a cup of coffee no one drinks.

Three hours is a long time.

And then one day, you walk in, as you always do, and the nurse points to Room 301.

“Hey, can you go in there?”


“New one. Premature”

What do you want me to do?

“Just hold him.”

Three hours is just a moment.


How to Watch Someone Three Days Old


Begin with blankets

torn from a heartbeat and left for the wash

Shut out afternoon and listen

for something occasional

   the scratch of a bell

Without wrinkling

there is life after all

   breath on a vastness of cotton

Come in lose yourself in

the smooth mask of unmatched beginnings

but give in

   to the intimacy of checking and you will miss

The slippered blue unfurling

From here it is all movement

a cocoon unravels, grows the tightened harmonies of grocery store cries

Be first without fading flannel slides like water

Crunch him

Let him rock on the waves of sifted air

   leafed in the clovered comfort of swaying

When your arms stale, know they have years to stretch

   What clings a minute?

Last in this accident of weight

-darcy miller