Poetry: Dan Simmons
My middle son is missing something
in the middle of the middle of his chest.
For 21 years, he was my youngest son;
then there was this calling it quits
followed by a starting over (for me).
Now he is in the middle.
He was five when the doctor told us
about that hole and that murmur.
Nothing to be worried sick about after all –
just watch for infection.
I watch. I see how he loves to smoke
some things more than other things.
He talks slowly. I see all the signs of an infection.
My middle son, when he was still my youngest son
and before he grew tall, learned to drive with the ball
and blow right past me and take it all the way to the hole.
He’d walk back to the line and wait for me to toss him the rock.
My god, that smile.
He was the kid who stayed up late
after marshmallows and scary stories.
He’d sit there for hours, entranced
by the deepest red of the campfire,
soaking-in the heat. He’d watch sparks
escape and turn into stars against the black
mountain sky like red-hot secrets taking flight.
Before long, he’d find himself huddled
against the edge, eyes burning,
overcome by the heat of the moment,
focused on nothing but the wiggle of the flames
and the wavy hot glow of the smolder.
First, there was this fusion
of kindred imaginations,
then there was this burning
like the hot seep of a whiskey shot,
then there was this guilty tending
of what must have been Eden,
then there was this lacing
of map-cracks in all of the solid things,
then there was this pining
for back to the imagination of it all,
then there was this goodbye.