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The Barn

This is a flower. The flower is in a pot. 
The flower needs sunlight and soil
and water to live, and he’s getting
a lot of it wrong, my son, and some
of it right, sitting on my lap
with his illustrated reading book.

I look beyond the yellow daisy 
to the red barn in the distance.
Why is the door closed? What’s going on
in the barn’s unknowable darkness?

The horses are in there breathing,
standing up as they dream. The goats
are wondering why the farmer
hasn’t come to let them into the day.
The pigs are wondering this too,
but at a higher level, as pigs are very smart.

Perhaps the farmer is lying in bed,
dead of a heart attack. Or he and his wife
were surprised by a flare-up of the ancient
original fire that blazed into marriage
and a farm and a fine boy like this boy
on my lap, for whom reading is not 
coming easily, who makes me proud
when he gets it right, but it’s when
he gets it wrong, when his voice thins

and falters before the inscrutable word,
that I love him unbearably, thinking back
to long division and the terrible fractions
with their unlike denominators. How
I burned at my desk in tiny failure.

Son, let’s go into the dark barn and listen
to the horses breathing. Let’s hide out there
together, for as long as we can.

—from Central Air, available on Amazon


“It’s the paradox of parenting: we want to send our children out into the world, while at the same time we want to protect them from it. Luckily, Michael has turned into a good reader!”

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