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To My Son

After 9/11,  children had fears adults could not qualm.  My son was one of those children.  At that time, I wrote this poem.  I’ve reworked some of it–a poem is never finished–and post it now in thoughtful sorrow, mostly for the families of Sandy Hook but also for all families who have felt the shock waves of a world in which we can not keep our children safe and the children know it.

 

To My Son

You are ten, on the edge of a nightmare,

Though still you have not slept.

“What if?” you say.  “What if it all were true?”

Black tarantulas creeping up the screen.

Silent murderers waiting by the door.

Hooded terrorists plotting in the street.

Your watchful eyes turn to the window,

Open to the dark that stretches into dark.

 

For me the nightmare was an axe

Glimpsed on a screen through finger-shielded eyes.

It was a roiling sky and oozing, blistered skin,

Relentless Russians scheming in the cold.

It was gas and ovens and hills of shaven hair.

I, too, watched at the window of the world,

Which has stretched out even to this day

When my nightmare’s this:  that you must feel it, too.

 

I hold you now though holding doesn’t help.

I am the one to blame.

I gave you fear though I’d have kept it if I could.

From my blood to your blood,

The world’s blood staining our dreams.

 

But this I give you, too.  Lean down.  Look closely.

Across the green, dew-jeweled forest floor

The soft tarantula delicately steps.

The dying gaze in wonder at red flowers.

The turning wind breathes high across the blue.

To have lived—

The heart soars.

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