Do I have to go to school today?
my son asks from the womb
of his blankets. He’s looking past me
out the window where the sun has burst
through the branches of the backyard
trees, holding its own branch of light
out to him. He wants to paddle it
like a canoe all over the local lake
of sky, until his arms are tired and
he drifts the glad tide back
to where he began.
There’s a right answer
and there’s an answer that feels right,
that comes out arms swinging
in front, feet pointed forward,
no eyes in the back of its head.
Tell me, whose heart hasn’t once
pleaded for a grim green chalkboard
to be erased of battles and dates,
the heavy book closed, grass left
to grow over those graves, tickling
the bare sole of a foot instead?
The heart that will not negotiate
its interior beat has its own history
to live up to, opening and closing its
chambers like the doors of a classroom,
sending new blood out into the body
of the world. Such a river—though
I have the power—why slow? One day
he may stand on the banks of another river,
studying a small face he loves, bright
with its question, this page falling open
in the dusty notebook of his soul.
This poem was first published in North Shore Magazine before appearing in my earlier chapbook “Stealing Eternity”. My son was about 10 and it was a wonderful experience of sinking into that moment, the two of us suddenly oblivious to the rote demands of the day.