The child in Yemen was 12-3;
the same gilded age of brilliance and fight
my son will be in 4+5 years.
A tender yet defiant age of nine years, (10 summers) –
aptly filled with friends and fears, bullies and tears –
And all the years of magic that await them open-armed –
If they can stay alive, if they can just survive; not spill over
like cups of juice on a formica countertop at the Church for the taking.
Or just like shoes lined up outside evening prayer at the Mosque.
And our soft-eyed 12-3 scans the rows of shoes
as he could take a pair so easily, his youthful mind imagines
fleet-footing away like a kite on an updraft – with the Nikes, no, the Pumas.
But his father would rather walk like a barefoot Jesus than learn his son to be a thief –
Meanwhile, our tender-faced 4+5 peruses
the Dixie cups of juice
during coffee time at the Church – his face sullen
with Prophetic dismay:
So unhappy is he with his selection of devoted Martyrs.
Yet move he must, as the line for the animal crackers grows and grows,
un crescendo, poco a poco…. a human Boléro – a
bell-shape bulge behind the young boy and his errant indecision.
His mother will look up impatient: Aunt Bobbie’s quiche awaits her.
She will snap her jaws in disapproval –
Hurry, son, [good] people are waiting [for you] – just choose one [for the love of God!].
She will be embarrassed by her offspring; his inconsideration of the Congregation’s needs –
But I don’t like apple juice,
he says, the defeated nature of the answer an easy justification for
his mother to grab his small arm, shake it;
pull him away from the counter, like a child caught stealing –
she’s so mad she could cut off his hand; shame him in public for bringing shame to her,
right before the Pastor’s eyes to see his spoilt-ness.
This is not her fault, she thinks; she knows.
And at that moment the purple paint dapples his arm,
a fuse spits: it can almost be heard by an Atheist’s ear –
it crackles like kindling and takes hold in his soul like archaic B.C. fire –
Rises up from ash into air, and
fleet-footed it flies him away from there –
like a kite riding a thermal, up so high – so far from the crime of his issues.
While in this same moment,12-3 sits outside the Mosque –
hot and alone, dreamy with thirst,
and the bombs commence to rain down like the gift of April showers
washing over his small shoulders –
The spring hath silenced our young 9-1 (10 summers)
due to the interpolation of: – (12 – 3) + (4 + 5),
For when numbering children within the gap
we find the value of X is always = 0.
Elisabeth Horan is a poet and mother from Vermont. She writes to let others know they are not alone in their struggles with mental illness and disability. She has work at Milk + Beans, Writer’s Resist, The Mad River, formercactus, Feminine Collective and many other wonderful places you enjoy. @ehoranpoet & ehoranpoet.com