of a Child
When I'm ready to think of
something else, finally,
I think of wind that runs like a river along a river,
and trees bending into themselves
with a will for breaking,
a will to break from the soil and leave the lap of the horsefield
where death has laid
its head, its fire-red curls.
I think of the young painter who finds the body of a child,
drowned in the river
and cast on stones that rattle
in the white hands of the water.
At first, the painter thinks all the right
He thinks of his own infant son.
But then he notices the child's beautiful blue lips
blue rim of a bowl, and the wine of its blood
spilled on a stone, and the dark loaves of its closed eyes
on the table of its face,
like the meal Christ rises over, sweeping his hands apart
while around the table
the Apostles all lean against each other,
whispering, waiting, posing, even, for the thousands of painters
all but Judas, who looks away,
who has already broken the heavy bread and chews the grain,
thinking of betrayal, of kissing sour wine from Christ's lips,
but of walking in a narrow street and hearing the
of one bird that flew a hundred miles to rest in a tree
and pull its meal from a tent of worms.
painter begins a portrait of the boy.
For a long time he stands beside the river, the brushes in a jar
hand, the sun turning lower in the sky,
and after a while he doesn't look at the child on the stones
at the boy lying in the soft bed of paint,
the dead boy at the end of his brush.
Then the boy by the water
and climbs from the stones to the riverbank.
He walks to the painter and asks him, What are you painting?
You, the painter says, But you're dead.
No, the boy says, That boy is dead,
and he points to the painting.
Scale Model of Childhood
Who can say what calls me to work
these late hours
by lamplight and magnifying glass?
After the ladybug retracts
beneath its red shell,
I use a brush of one hair
to connect the black stars
stippled on its back:
who licks its teeth,
muzzle still red with Acteon’s blood,
waiting at the feet of the Twins
for crumbs to fall from their table.
In another room,
my parents sleep lightly,
as though ready always
to call my name.
When my constellation is finished,
I pierce it with a pin,
my little dog,
and place it
in a miniature box,
size of my thumbnail,
a window for the shoe box diorama
I assemble each night
from tidbits no one will miss.
When I was a child
feral dogs ran the woods
beyond our door.
Even the hound my father shot
slipped away by morning,
a line of blood pocking the
My parents instructed me,
never stray outside.
Nights, my back on the bed
and my head tilted back,
I watched stars scroll past
my narrow window’s frame.
Once I thought I’d step
as from a doorway
into a night blazing with stars
they defied constellation.
I’d stride into the revealed world
away from the house
and my parents framed by a window
as they sat at a table
with no morsels pierced
near parted lips.
Pull the lever on the side of the box
and their forks will scrape
while an unseen dog
howls for its dinner
in an almost human voice.