To the mar­ket, I say to you, only to the mar­ket.
There we will buy only the things we need, and then we will return home.
And, know­ing your eyes, I know the lie in my remon­strance;
for I have never been able to resist you
in your puppy looks as you plead silently after sweets
and caress with quiet long­ing the blister-​​packed toys.

We are not rich but we have soap,
which you hate,
as all boys do.
It is a small lux­ury I can afford, an easy price
to see you gleam.
The one penalty for going to the mar­ket
you accept with lit­tle grace,
but some tol­er­ance, show­ing me you have washed
and I remind you that Allah loves the cleanly.

Then I must be very beloved indeed, you say.
Such truth in your complaint.

Dressed sim­ply, fra­grant with soap, my wealth,
you wait beside me for the bus,
your eyes bright but tainted with the fear
reflect­ing from my own furtive watch of the neigh­bor­hood.
It is not as it was, and I can no longer say
with the surety I once held
that our lives are bet­ter now.

But some­day, son, I know
this will cease; you will one day be happy again,
your life — sim­ple now, even still, even amid this —
filled with the sim­ple tri­als of school
and girls and, one day,
mar­riage and grand­chil­dren for me to relent­lessly spoil,
and you won­der a lit­tle at my smile as you see it,
and smile back, ten­ta­tively, your hand slip­ping into mine.

So lit­tle you know.
So few heart­beats you have had.

I say I love you.
Then, you insist, with the logic of the young,
you must buy me a
No, I say. No treats this time.
You didn’t wash up prop­erly after sup­per last night
and you are still being punished.

We both know this means nothing.

Grunting along the patched, rough­hewn macadam
the bus growls up its gears, and there is a crack and shud­der
a blis­ter­ing flash of time
scin­til­lat­ing around us as life becomes shat­tered,
glass dia­monds glint­ing cold,
rubies bright across my eyes.
Your hand, in mine, loosens.

And I can­not hold on to you.

I wanted to say, I wanted to say —
so fast, you were away so fast, your eyes fright­ened, and I wanted to say —

How many nights did I hold you thus as your heart beat so fast
and rock you as you wept, com­fort­ing you, eas­ing your child­ish fears
of the dis­tant cracks of doom,
whis­per­ing into the cup of your ear that we were safe
within the walls of our home?

It has, it has ceased.

I can­not hold on to you.

Bathed now, cleaned now, safe now from any more harm,
beloved,
I leave you to move once more, numb, into the world of light
and sweets and toys,
and if only I could, my son,
I would buy all of them for you
just to feel your hand stir once more in mine,
your puppy eyes aglow.

==

Inspired by; in ref­er­ence to.

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