Calling You Back
Norma Gay Prewett
for my son, Alex
You flop on the sled, luge-style
feet candy canes ahead, prone
as if you are home, lounging in your bed.
Instead of plummeting to a distant fate.
And I start to raise my hand,
to step into your path,
pull you up and call you to come back
as if you had slipped in the bath.
There’s already so much space between
five years old and six, such difference.
Your daddy shakes his head at me and gives
a bonus shove, to your delighted shout.
All I can see of you retreating
toward the sulfurous sunset
is your red left glove
and the Day-Glo pink of sled.
I knew you would be sliding from me soon
There were signs that the kernel, the meat
of you would crack that babyhood I loved
in a blizzard of sharp-boned shell.
Your shape is soon lost in the covey
of other people’s chicks scattered at the bottom
I hug myself and huddle with the other mothers
Each hoping, against reason, to call you back.
Later, as you crawl in with us, claiming illness,
I am shocked and comforted by
the still littleness of your body,
the lightness of your bones seem hollow
as those of birds.
The dark disguises and shrinks the boy
who seemed so solid on the sled.
I fall asleep breathing your essence
and blowing it back upon your purpling lids,
sealing our compact. I will let
you grow—if you will
always let me mother.