A species are [[distinctions->first]].
(set: $distinction to 0)The first distinction concerns efficacy -- the ability to [[wind->wind]] or wend. (set: $distinction to it+1)Winding species blur in movement, blurt in starting and bark in stopping. To bar from altering into ones that wend, the observer falters at the tongue, speaks only in breaths.
(click: "observer") [It's true that I was speechless at the moment of my daughter's birth. First, I was holding one of Rachel's legs up and pushing back. Then, I was at the birth cannal, holding out my [[hands->wend]].]}Those that wend are overly bent. These species lack a [[wind]] to flatter the tongue, gasping if not to speak, lifeless if for only a [[second]].The futile is never finished, only to furnish other futures. The futile species may [[bend->bent]], [[break->break]], or [[breach->breach]].
The most striking thing about first encountering Annot was the seeming gulf between the futility of this small being and the ability of a fully-grown adult. From across this gulf of potential, though, there is still power: just hours after birth, Nottie unleashed an enormous load of excrement, covering herself and Rachel.]
}(set: $distinction to it+1)The bent species perambulate on multiple limbs, hunched in the liminal space between prone and upright. The bend is grapple, a gurgle brought forth in a struggle to uprise from the chest. The species are [[breaching->breach]] from stomach to breast.''**distinctions**'':
an ontogenetic bestiary,
or read a [[preface->note1]]Those species that breach through middles typically form beaks but these also may [[break]]. The beak is a bill broken in half, but the broach into [[thirds->third]] is altogether new. The bent species limn limb undermines soil as if to swim. See the next [[limb->lime]].The lime limb climbs to greater climes. See the next [[limb->limx]].On an alterior torso, the limx limb hangs as a lump. See the next [[limb->lynx]].The lynx was once a limb, now severed, something so broken as to be a species of its own.
(click:"broken") [There are times when I have felt utterly broken by parenthood. During a walk through the park on a cold February evening, I gasp out a cry. At this same moment, Nottie is at home, in bed, sleeping and growing. I can break but also grow, and though I daily see the beauty in Annot's development, I am not always able to recognize the [[beauty->ligament]] of what I am becoming.]}Between [[crusted->crusted]] and smooth, species either crack or curl.
(click: "smooth") [An infant's skin varies in texture, a downy arm to a puckered finger. These textures change quickly, dynamically. One day Nottie's cheeks might be luminous, and the next -- sere, red, desiccant.]
(set: $distinction to it+1)The crusted species cracks at points of substantial crud, the build-up of secondary skins breaking open onto ridged ring, a smooth skin beneath.
(click: "smooth") [I've been amazed at how the diaper sores and rashes that pock the areas around Annot's anus disappear -- fading back into [[soft skin->smooth]] -- as quickly as they appear.]
}Green ear, let curl at use -- the smooth species folds and folds and folds relentlessly, bend at each sound. Though bent to rippling, the folds are without interruption.
The species folds again, into [[fourths->fourth]] this time, and the node elongnates.
(click: "Green") [I took this phrase from a line of magnetic refigerator poetry that I arranged years ago, years before Annot was conceived. When we brought Nottie home, we brought her home to an old farm house in Chapel Hill. We rented the house from a woman named Dottie, who had grown up in this house, though she now lived in another house down the road. There hadn't been a baby in the house since Dottie's own daughter, Gina.]
}The fourth distinction is the neck -- err -- nexus, the point at which [[many become one->connection]] or break into [[pieces->separateness]].
(click: "err") [Rachel often remarks how she loves Annot's <i>sweet little swallow</i>, hearing the subvocal grunt as masticated foods and liquids pass down the neck. It's barely audible but distinct. A lactation consultant first taught us to listen for it when Annot was having trouble feeding at the breast. Annot never got the hang of it, and so Rachel pumped milk for 13 months for her to drink out of a bottle. Even though she's eating all solid food now, we still listen for that little swallow.
(set: $distinction to it+1)A species are formed in connecting [[nodes]]: needless how many splintered pieces persist, these [[needles]] amass clearly into images.A species may separate into many pieces, at paces clipping or protracted -- pieces of sameness or pieces a-glimmer, multifarious spieces grow from these [[splinters->needles]].A ring, a round, a [[nub]], a [[hub]], keys of connection huddle at the base of the ring.
(click: "keys") [
A toy key ring was one of the first objects that Nottie really 'played pretend' with -- more than just banging or shaking or chewing. I'm writing this at 14 months, but she's been playing this game for at least 3 or so months at this point. I showed Nottie how to turn the keys in the keyhole of a door (making a click-click-click sound). This imaginative play marked an expansion of her connection to the world, a connection extending beyond the physical link between her and me and Rachel.]
}A [[node->nodes]] like a [[hub]] circles connections, a point of aggregation, but a node like a needle pokes out and out.The slow-moving species effects a [[smooth plane->gelatin]] as they proceed.Some species emerge in [[floods->fast]] and others flow in [[sludge->slowness]].
(set: $distinction to it+1)The fast-moving species may appear to [[break apart->pieces]] as they proceed, the [[lurch->leech]] forward, then to stutter and to roll, and to fall.
Many months before Annot could walk, she strolled. Annot took to a 'learning walker' toy, akin to the walkers that adults to assist themselves in moving around, but miniature and plastic, festooned with singing farm animals. She gained great facility with the walker quickly, and soon, she peeled around the house, dodging in and out of doorways. Rachel wondered if Annot would ever learn to walk without the aid of the toy.]
}From states of [[a rest]], species [[a wake]].
(set: $distinction to it+1)The species stills almost to silence, moving slightly, laterally, on the surface of a smooth plane.
(click: "silence") [Nottie has always been a good sleeper, going down easily and quickly for naps and at night. Though, now as I'm [[writing->note2]] this at nearly 15 months, she has begun resisting falling asleep for her naps. She likes taking books with her into her crib and turning the pages back and forth.]
}At the end of [[a rest]], whether suddenly, a start -- or with a grumble, a gripe, a graw, a yawn -- the species stirs a wake. A narrow wake at first, a one wave trembling, then into two waves parting, a wide wake, the species upstarting. Note at 14 months
The structure of the poem mirrors the development of my daughter, Annot. I add distinctions as she gets older: for the first year, one for each month; and an additional distinction every year after that -- I'm behind on this at present, as I've only written in seven, but I'm giving myself until the end of the year to log the first 12, the first half of the poem.
The poem grows along with my daughter, which is interesting I hope, but the more interesting aspect I think is how the dynamic poem reflects my growth as a father, reflects the developing relationship with my daughter.
In the long run, I'm writing this for Annot -- something she might read, perhaps at different times in her life, and learn something about how she grew in my eyes, through the strange refractions of wordplay and hyperlinks. Right now, I'm writing this for myself -- something between a diary and regimen. I'm not just pouring my thoughts on fatherhood into this vessel but also forcing those thoughts into a shape, shaping those thoughts against the grain of this particular writing technology.
Right now, I'm not a very good Twine author. I'm only using the rudiments of the tool, which is fine but I hope to develop this into a more sophisticated work over the years. The poem at present is also quite rough-hewn. There are some passages and phrases that shine and give me pause for the beauty they communicate; most of the passages, I scribbled out hastily and haven't returned to since.
This all strikes me as quite an analogy to my experience as a father thus far. Most days, I scrape by -- I'm running behind, I'm not doing this right, I feel like I'm failing, failing Nottie and failing to get the most out of this early going. Most days, though, I experience moments of pure grace.
I don't know if the poem will be any better in 12 years, but it will be [[longer->title]]. The species maintains many rings, at times smooth and at times crusted. The pustules pop at the rings' rounds, and subsume back to skin, a faint impression on the skin of a [[hexagon->fifth]].A nub slowly grows off a [[ring]], first appearing like another node in the [[hub]].
(click: "node") [But the nub is not like other nodes, rather a special growth, an index, a mirrored indent, to become a needle, pointing outward, seeking connection.]
}The species may seem a [[nub]], a [[ring]] become crusted with drooping accretions.Note at 2 years and 5 months
I did not meet the goal of finishing the first 12 distinctions by the time Annot turned 2 years old. In fact, I stopped working on the poem shortly after I made that rather aspirational note. Nearly a year later, now, and my son, Percy Hart, just joined our family. That has gotten me thinking about this poem again.
I would still like to work on this poem, and to continue working on it over time, but it may never be finished. I have at the very least grown wise enough not to place arbitrary deadlines upon myself. I've learned this from my daughter, who places no such deadlines upon herself. When she wants to put a shirt on -- by herself, always exclaiming "Nottie help! Nottie help!" to ward off my attempts to assist -- the expectation is only that she will, in fact, eventually get the shirt on by herself. There is no set timeline for the task.
So, there's no timeline for completion now, no goal of adding a distinction per year of Annot's growth, though I do want to continue adding distinctions to the poem, and no goal of improving my fluency with Twine by some set date, though I do hope to get better at writing with this tool. Still, I have had more ideas about how I want the poem to develop. I do want to accumulate at least 12 distinctions, but I want to restructure the experience of reading through these, more as a pathway from one distinction to the next, a schema of development, where the form of the thing becomes more clear even as it becomes larger and more complex.
The species are distinction $distinction.The species that [[bends->bent]] to the point of breaking may run aground. Altering, as a [[breach]] in the corpus, the body staggers and shifts without purpose.
(click: "staggers") [My mom almost dropped Annot one of the very first times she held her, standing in front of a glass door in our house, the sun streaming in. Our cat, Oz, liked to sleep in that pooling sunlight on a tattered wicker bag, and my mom had stepped on his tail. Oz howling and hissing, my mom screaming, she held onto Annot while we all scrambled to connect the scream to the bite.]
}slough or laugh
(set: $distinction to it+1)wet or dry
(set: $distinction to it+1)Species grow into larger forms, then bow at the [[limn]], to either crumble or amble.
(set: $distinction to it+1)grasp or release
(set: $distinction to it+1)speak or sqwak
(set: $distinction to it+1)Working in concert, the limbs strengthen enough to bend without bowing, the ligaments working to breach without breaking.
(click:"breaking") [Nottie did take to walking quite quickly, once she got up the courage to amble without the baby stroller. Her first steps were in the early days of the Covid-19 quarantine, when both Rachel and I were working from home. That is, Rachel was teaching high school courses on Google Classroom and I had nearly finished my dissertation while tensely awaiting word back from job interviews. Even as Nottie grew confident quickly in her walking, she routinely fell on her knees, scraping them often, the skin and blood, the overskin and underskin overlapping in ligatures of [[seven->seventh]] lines.]}A species are pieces, especially when broken, though the pieces may shamble or shudder altogether. Even the fastest of species will [[slow->slowness]] to a crawl.The lurching akin to leeching, stopping and starting to move on limbs bent to [[breeching->pieces]].The species when slow are almost non-moving, the gelatinous limns set into their firmness. The wind of a cloud or the breeze of a tree are all that can set the gel into [[ripples]].
It's springtime, and it doesn't matter the year or the month or the day. I walk outside, opening the front door, crossing the front porch, descending the steps and out onto the grass. Rachel has laid a picnic blanket out in the sun, and Nottie lies on her stomach, cheek to the cloth, dozing. This is an eternal moment.]
}A species are tumbling, until they are stopped. A species stumble on limns still locked. Slowly, then fastly, a species uprise, fumbling to assemble the [[senary->sixth]] prizes.