Before your name was known,
I crept down creaking stairs at three
to satisfy our craving for Cheerios.
You spoke with sonar,
squirmed to float your needs,
unformed lips and absent teeth
two fewer tools for symbols
I could misconstrue.
When we were separated, you cried
to speak again in the language of fluid,
to lament the severed syncromesh.
And the sunlight hurt your eyes.
You see beauty I no longer recognize
in the dry leaf latched onto the dog’s tail
deposited in the corner,
and in the copper flashing of a penny
as it skates across the floor.
Only if I squeeze my eyes hard enough
can I still see silver.
Rooted in the inefficiency of words,
I am suspended beyond recollection
of the worlds that merged in me
and spend my life unlearning the perfect language.
One day you drop your mother’s hand,
a sudden chill in sweaty creases,
and cross the street alone. She releases
your bike seat. You jolt and wobble
without the weight. You hang
your school jacket in your sister’s closet.
It’s her room now, anyway.
You bag up slacks with narrow waistlines
for Goodwill, return the office keys
to HR. Life is learning when
to let go, hoping the red
balloon has lofted you to safety
and will fly far beyond
the volley of deflating stones.
Michelle DeRose teaches creative writing and African-American, Irish, and world literature at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her most recent poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Dunes Review, Making Waves, The Journal of Poetry Therapy, and Healing Muse.