Walt wore green trousers to school today,
a little tattered and short but baggy enough
to get by, his ankles sharp wings above
his shoes, Hermes delivering his little
sister to kindergarten. She's in a green cardigan
over green t-shirt; she hates to be pinched.
She isn't sure her classmates will eat
the guacamole we made this morning
for Green Tasting Day, and Amber, of course,
is bringing green popcorn. I mention snakes
and pagans, an island as green as the Hulk,
but they look at me as if my hair is on fire,
a peat fire in late winter, a cache of flames above
my ears. When St. Patrick left home a slave,
a stolen child in the service of thieves, the fairies
discerned a narrow faith and let him be,
let him labor and escape. If only leprechauns
possessed a missionary instinct. If only
they'd kept him in a bower counting shades
of green. If seen now in these days of Falwell
and Robertson, if found beneath a garden stone
or taking shelter in the heather, the little
people are menacing and mean, as apt
to boil a child as enchant him. Driven
underground by Patrick's return, they await
a different rapture, or the same one differently,
happy enough with an eternity bound over
to the earth, the smear of chlorophyll on their
cheeks as they walk among the heathens,
who believe what they see and little else.
The fairies require no one's belief.
The leprechauns play tricks on the damned
or the saved. Patrick taught the Trinity
by counting the leaves on a shamrock, how
three things could be as one, then handing it
to a druid to hold, to consider. So when,
after school, Phoebe announces that, yes,
everyone loved the guacamole, and Walt
hands out his paper shamrocks inscribed
with messages, I think of spring, three days
away, which this year falls on Palm Sunday,
the day Walt was born eight years ago.
Did a nurse give me the small cross of bent
fronds or did I find it under his pillow,
right next to a four-leaf clover, a gift from
an uncle who has never believed, though he took
the time to search in his yard for a present.
Faith and luck: one found everywhere,
the other as rare as air at the bottom of the sea.
Both are in his baby book, right next
to a footprint and a bracelet that reads
Baby Boy Harms. Right now he wants
to eat the green cupcake his teacher gave him
before the final bell. Phoebe is
looking out the window counting clouds
aloud in Spanish, which means there
can only be ten. Ten clouds in the sky,
though from where I sit, there are hundreds.
We Started Home, My Son and I
after Jaan Kaplinski
We started home, my son and I.
Evening beginning. The small stains
of streetlight spreading across the sidewalk,
thinning to darkness every few yards.
My son paused at the edge of each
then leapt, one hand in mine,
to the next. Ahead, his mother
touched the meat twice before
turning it, rinsed the lettuce, called out
for his sister to wash her hands.
He said each spot of light
was a great land, each span
of darkness the sea. And we
followed his map home
out past the edge of town where night
filled the long blocks between
streetlights with oceans.
We rowed when we could, swam
the last few miles. Until the moon
reared up like an old man
startled from his nap. And once
again the roads of the world rose
beneath us. Before long, my son
and I were home. I watched him climb
the brick stairs to the front door,
whose key I no longer owned.
His mother waved as he fell
into the house, the bright rooms
splashed with light. The ottoman
covered with horsehair; a damask
draped over the sofa: I couldn't see
these or any other emblems of my
previous life. I felt the waters rise
around my feet, heard in the distance
the loose rigging in the wind, a buoy bell.
So far from the sea, I rolled up
my trousers, wading in
for the walk back.
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