Saturday, July 28, 2012

Today is my son James's 18th birthday, and in a month he will leave home for college. Don't take it the wrong way if I say he's grown up far better than I expected. I think it's not possible, when one has a squalling newborn, to imagine that he will ever grow up to be a young man ready to leave home . . . let alone a self-possessed, self-reliant, large-hearted, hilarious, gentle, ambitious, adventurous young man who can spend all day scraping paint off a house, knows how to fix a broken vacuum cleaner, consumes as much guacamole as he can get, tells jokes so dry that it takes several beats to figure out he's messing with you, spontaneously hugs the people who love him, buys bright red pants, wants to install CB radios in all three family cars for no particular reason, enjoys Latin and old episodes of the A-Team, is enthusiastic about going on a road trip with his mother, has clung to the same best friend since babyhood, cogently discusses art with his father, dislikes the works of Dickens, refers to his parents by their first names because "that seems friendlier," eats what he is served, says please and thank you to everyone except his brother, refurbishes stereo speakers he found at the dump, has a well-developed sense of political irony, plays Eagles songs at top volume for the sole purpose of making his mother bounce up from her desk and shout, "Turn that shit off!," thinks that Moxie actually tastes good, asked for key-lime pie for his birthday dinner, and adores his dog.

Happy birthday, dear boy.

Boy Land

Dawn Potter

Shoving together
a snowman from slush
and mud and grass,

the boys dance around him
in the sleet, shrieking;
then knock him down

and eat his carrot.
They rip the sails
off a birthday-present

pirate ship that took
all afternoon to assemble.
On sunny days, they pound

shiny Matchbox cars
with rocks to make
demolition derby junkers.

They choke trees with duct
tape, hold up peaceniks
with cap guns,

inform their teachers,
“Well, shit, you know
I hate math.”

On report cards,
a teacher writes: “Work
does not show best effort,”

and sends home a science
paper with one casual
slash of red crayon up the front.

Instead of cleaning their messy
rooms, new cell-phone Ken
and punk-rock Barbie

with no clothes
argue behind closed doors.
Barbie: “Hey!  I don’t like you!”

Ken: “Well, I’m going to live alone!”
Aliens drag Barbie away.

[from Boy Land & Other Poems (Deerbrook Editions, 2004)]

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