I love the mere existence of the word patience,
a complex idea in a small word, two syllables
for the ability to wait and work calmly through adversity.
A complex idea in a small world, in the eye
of a needle, a sculpture made of dust motes,
painted with a sharpened human hair: Mister
Sandaldjian’s tiny self portrait: his bald head rolling
down one of his hairs, suspended across the girders
of the needle his wife used to support them while he worked,
hunched over his microscope, building nine birds on one hair
of his 3-month old grandson, building the Pope holding a cross
two blood cells thick, adding color in the stillness between pulses.
Late at night, with less static, less dust, less vibration from traffic,
he’d work for 14 months on one. Miniaturists should wear silk,
refrain from speaking over their work. Breath kills. He crawled around
his table for weeks looking for the “supremely graceful ballerina
he refused to reattempt,” lost in a typhoon sneeze. It is a curse
to be big. Think of a cat’s bell and how hard it is to wear one.
I try to see what’s inside the pupil of my eye, close up, closer,
and see only my own night. But Mr. Sandaldjian sees, and sculpts.
Invite me, sir, to the eighty-third chamber of your nautilus shell.
It is glorious to be little, like the shadow of a bird crossing the sun,
the brittle last wafer of soap, the morning’s crescent moon,
the match’s first sharp instant, its small smell bright as mustard.