Anthony Frame

Last Day of Childhood, Nearly Thirteen

I return to the boy in the green bedroom,
his name scribbled on the door above a series
of inches and dates,                a timeline
            of growth, of sprouting toward sky.

                  I watch him walk the edges of his room,
the streetlight outside flickering
                        as the moths fly around it,
            a book of Dickinson and a razorblade
                                               on the nightstand,
                        his bare chest breathing shallow. I want

to take him in my arms, to stroke and kiss
            his buzz-cut head, to give him
                                  the smallest sense of these years
                    I’ve lived
but tonight, like so many nights,
                                                 now and forever,
            to touch him is to set him off, a fury of fists
aimed at monsters in the air,
                                             his screams and sobs
bursting through the locked gates of his throat.

So I leave him there,              sleepless
after another night of nightmares, visions
            of the unshaved man with a hand
                        down his pants, hatred for
     the wealthy parents too privileged to see,
            fear of his brother’s world with its own secrets.

                                              I leave him there, naked
            in front of the mirror,
headphones over his ears, rewinding
                       his Nirvana tape over and over
            hoping to hear something through the mumbled lyrics.

I leave him because I know
                                  he’s the best kind of coward,
                  because he needs this night just like you
needed your sleepless nights, those nights
            that become tattoos on our brains, he needs this
            just like the trees that survive on sad human sighs.

His heroes are dead                 what else is there to know
                                he knows
                                                the hair of his heroes
will keep growing,   he knows no amount of wind,
            no number of power chords
                                will bang that hair again.

So I leave him with his mother and his father
asleep down the hall,
            with his brother asleep down the stairs,
I leave him with his penis between his legs
            becoming a hammer.

                                             I leave him to learn
how to pick and choose,
                                      how to piece together
            the impossible puzzle of a life.

I leave him there in 1994, the coward I love
surrounded by a sky of darkness,
            a constellation of night,
                        standing forty-nine inches tall.

I leave him
           to grow, to live,
                                               to tell our story.


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