I SEE MY CHILDHOOD IN A BROKEN MIRROR
I see my childhood in a broken mirror.
Seven again. Yet not quite the same.
A baleful dream figure, a wraith of then,
a boy supercharged with apprehensive energy,
hovering pensively like a curtain in the broken air,
torn like a veil from the face in the broken window,
sometimes standing on the dank earth
that was always in shadow, but lightly, as if
the whole broken world had been saturated
in sorrow, and Patti Page was on the radio.
Evanescent, auroral, almost immaterial,
a lingering vapour of what he was then,
I retain some sense of what he was feeling,
but he has no idea that I exist as a furtherance
of those emotions, sophisticated and complex
as a quantumly entangled creation myth
shared in common can become. As
the apple is to the blossom that disappeared
to let things proceed as they must to fruition.
Sad, thoughtful, angry boy, smouldering
like a wet cedar bough to stay lost in the fog
of his innocence, or smudge his awareness
of the raw rash of a raging drunk that scratched
at his heart like a father until it bled to death
like a medicine bag that longed to be a cure-all,
you did didn’t you, but your magic was too small.
And your mother was the martyred lioness
who stood between her cubs and the ravenous man
who would have eaten you all, just to say he had.
And you, the eldest, when did you start to shoulder
that bell of conscience that somehow accused you,
by complicity, even as an onlooker, to the black farce
of tragic severance madly slashing the life
in front of you like the fleshy cheeks of a rubber doll,
with mechanical eyes that opened and closed
like a guillotine in a reign of terror that convinced you
somehow you must be bad, given you were
the lowest common denominator between two extremes
going at each other like opposite ends of a burning bridge?
How many younger selves have I fathered over a lifetime
to make up for the absence of one of my own.
Little arsonist, out of my ashes, I tell you
it wasn’t you who set fire to the world
that’s been burning down around you for lightyears.
I’m not going to climb the mountain and sacrifice you
to anyone, I’m not going to come to you
like a stranger to play father for a day
and assume you like baseball without asking
because I’m trying to float my way into heaven
at one minute to midnight like a bubble of apple piety
that refused to admit there were any thorns in life,
that everything was whole and mended, as if
there were no boxing events off limits you could
take a kid to he would have liked a whole, lot better
than a sport you were trying to indoctrinate him into like a cult.
I’m not trying to throw a right hook with a catcher’s mitt on.
You just stand there, as you are, little hero,
with that enlarged philosophical, poetic heart of yours
way too old for your years, as if you were trying
Keats on for size, wounded like an initiate
into the discipline of that fist clenched at your side.
Let me rest my hand on your shoulder a moment
like the stoic affection of one man to another
and by that let you know how much I admire and respect you
for those wild, childhood virtues of survival
you planted in me like seeds of wilful compassion
that grew like morning glory in a rose arbour with thorns.
I want to always remember you like that.
A small warrior. A dragon slayer. With a bell
on your head like a visor you tilted at a world
of windmills sword dancing with themselves
like the hands of a clock at a victory parade of its own shadows.
O inseparable, when the geese are overhead
scattering the ashes of the dead in a long rosary
of lament, I’ll take you with me when I go.