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Today My Son

turns 21, and he says if there is a draft,
he will go to France, decamp for the foreign
instead of contributing to the forensic.

It is a difficult thing to write a poem for your son.

It is a difficult thing to know the moment
your child stopped being a child.

The earth keeps turning
on its ineffable axis

and the days keep turning further
and further away from the days
when with simple hugs and kisses
I could unspeak all his sadness.

These days, in a college dorm
he rises, hair screwed north/north east

and that hasn’t changed,
the unruliness sprouting from his head,

and his quick step into the waking world
walkman in hand, as he runs toward trays

of steaming syrup and French toast.  We both
have a nose for the sweet things in life,

both could smell morning wafting into the Hotel
Diego Marziegos many years ago,
a memorable breeze tinged with 95% pure cacao.

Three streets away, in an ancient bakery,
a Mayan woman pounded beans
into mantic confections.  Magic in the air

filled our nostrils and lifted us out of sleep,

flinging us onto the busy street
where a myriad symphony of shoes
beat the sidewalk stones shiny

and flesh colored, like the soles of upturned feet.

All that tapping music, lost to his ears
which were filled with CAKE
(the band, not the bakery)

until,
smack dabbo,
there you have it,

he ran into a soldier standing
sentry at the corner.

Yes, difficult to tell when your child
stopped being a child,

though there are mile markers along the way,
meetings of innocence garbed in maturity
with maturity garbed in innocence

as the latter runs into the former
and they both drop
whatever their startled hands held,

then,
     stare at the sidewalk:

headphone wire around a rifle,
rifle wrapped in headphone wire.

Mothers get such mileage from these things,
distance being the point,

because to hold my breath in that moment,
to hear the elongating silence between
each footfall

as I wondered what would come next
was unbearable for a mother,

and I have to skip ahead to the twelve-year-old
with a mouthful of chocolate muffin
who lightly commented, “God Mom, that soldier
looked almost as young as me.”

Thank you, my son,
my oh so mature, and fatherless one.
 
Thank you for making sure
I will never be
a widow who walks by a bakery

everyday, waiting for a smell
to bring back her entire life.

 

by Luisa Villani



 
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