Ancient Rite

STL baseball cap, sneakers,
blue jeans (“I didn’t know
they came in such small sizes”)
twenty-six summers disappear.
Hot wax smell of crayons
cooking on the sidewalk,
that other two-year-old
strokes soft red Irish fur
waves at clouds of gnats
feels the shimmery afternoon breathe.

Look again, through the old visions
and see
— Sudden chill on a summer day —
The yard is empty.

She’s not in the garage she’s not
in the back yard she’s not in
the hedge she’s not
Don’t look no you have to
look no she’s thank God not
in the street

a dog barks in the next block
race down the sidewalk
in a knot of children
she looks very little
“Why didn’t you come when I called?”
Ignominious exit,
being hoisted away with a wail by
a parent-sized harpy.

Calmly seated lap-on-lap in a kitchen chair,
mother intones to daughter,
“you are too little to leave the yard.
I thought you were lost.
I was so scared.”
The effective parent “I statements”
suddenly sink in.
A hard knot of recognition
chokes off the words
and two initiates sniffle softly
in the grey borrowed daylight.


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