For luck

More than once for luck I have placed my hand against the swollen abdomen of a pregnant woman, & perhaps this is why I have led such a charmed life (knock on wood). I remember in Honduras a patriarch laying his hand on the head of some small child or grandchild – casually, as if in everyday greeting: “Bendiga.” “Gracias.” And the child scampers off. But once, it, too, had been a nameless presence at the center of a woman’s body. The soul might well know everything before birth, a blind seer with a single working orifice, round & perfect as the good-luck doll the Japanese call Daruma – push him over & he always gets back up. Westerners may invoke Plato’s cave but in East Asia it’s Bodhidharma who sat in darkness, fat-assed legless zero nine years in the making. He even circumcised his eyes of eyelids to ward off sleep, that stealthy enemy of enlightenment. In Japan, Daruma dolls come in both sexes & the eyes are always left blank so the owner can paint them in, one at a time: the first when making a wish, the second when it’s granted. Aspiring politicians are especially prone to this practice, the Japanese equivalent of kissing babies. But only those without guile are ever truly blessed. Don’t be fooled; pregnancy is a dangerous business. The fetus feels the weight of your hand, it hears your voice & if you are careless in shepherding your thoughts it may think: Aha. You feel a sudden kick & draw back, only to receive a second jolt where you least expect it, unprepared for the jealous stirring from your groin, that flesh of your flesh grown desperate for blessings.

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