For Cassius, at 12 years old
After Anne Sexton’s “Little Girl, My Stringbean, My Lovely Woman”
The summer of your birth
you and me, fists in the cotton air,
a gush of lilacs,
fireworks suturing the sky
then blasting it open
as I called you by your name.
Now you’re a preteen blade of seagrass
in a dream on a lawn I can’t sink my feet into,
laughing me in the eye porchside,
so slack and full of the world,
a June face,
sailboat blues on tan sand,
straw hair gelled to the side,
eye teeth a little forward in the rink.
So real, so ethereal,
it snags my speech in midair
and cinches it with love.
I used to bathe that face with a green rag
stuffed into a tall lime plastic cup,
and once I called you cactus
at a desert garden in Las Vegas,
but that was so long ago.
How many greasy store-bought brownies
wrapped in cellophane
were swallowed by that face?
How many times have you pressed
your baby cheeks to an iPod
and recorded ballads of diarrhea
and spoke the words of your generation?
Shizz, mofo, shart.
I still like to see the kitchen’s darkness close
a broad angle across the archipelago of your face
floating on a striped pillow,
sleep pulling your puppet strings
across the swamp of night,
your dragon’s blood incense
festooning with moss
the infomercial blaze of the room.
Sound molecules of percussion
blink a cosmic trail
from the attic with its one lace curtain
and cracked linoleum floor
where I sometimes find you
and your video games killing and plunging people,
then you leave to hit the skin
at the music store
with self-conscious, muscular joy.
Oh, I wish I could see your face then, at the store,
but I don’t want to hover.
When zits and fists make a fire of your nose,
when flying words gash your eyes and heart,
when brutal weather or shame
hides your face,
when other faces wink their fakery,
remember my love for you
snatched in the speechless blips of time,
remember the cup, the porch and my face.
Jenny Kasza is an editor/proofreader in Milwaukee. She is blessed with one loving son (Cassius), a devoted husband (Joel), and a really cute dog (Stinkerbelle).