You strode in with shoulders
of a man so much taller,
your eyes held back with the tilt
of your head and chin up.
I tried to see you coming from behind
but I was looking for the wrong boy.
There was this guy—not a boy—not a man
but same brown eyes, same brown curls
(and growing). It was you, undeniably.
Your brows were long and circles
under your eyes were set hard.
I know that posture so well,
I’ve seen it in my mirrors past
and in my angry generation.
But you—not you—not your brown eyes,
I have your face memorized like song,
I have loved every inch of it.
I hoped you’d never be familiar
with clenching fists, scraping skin,
bracing the beat of your heart
to stop it from hemorrhaging,
it will callus thick like cartilage.
Grit your teeth and stare them down
without flinching and unbolt the windows.
I have only seen you as a child,
my hand-holding boy in the back seat.
But here you sit, defiant smile,
refusing to play nice—I’m listening.
You now at sixteen, elbows out
tired of rolling with the tide.
You see none that qualifies, all their
smoke and mirrors don’t fool us now.
We are all playing the part of the wizard,
but you’re far too old for fairy tales.
I want to sing you to sleep, but you
are not six, you need more than lullabies.
You mapped the exits, found the weak hinges
(eventually, you’ll see them everywhere).
I can’t offer you shit, except how I get it,
I’ll stop holding you to that promise
that you will invent that shrink-ray
and keep yourself a child for me.