My Son at Ninth Grade
Overnight grown so towering, head wooly
with long curls, he’ll stare me down eye
to eye. A black wisp over his lip he
won’t shave. Hip-hop on I-pod, beats
on Garage Band, poems on his Mac
book. And nights beneath the sheets
whispering on his cell to Faduma,
a twenty-first century down low romance
her father and brothers would shut down
like a house of plague…if they discovered.
I pass his door and his voice lowers.
What does she see in him and he in her?
Only it’s not sight, there in the dark,
but the words shuttling between them,
old as Romeo and Juliet, the Sharks
and Jets, Buddha and Mohammed
and the mad crazy years we live in
where this young love fights to flourish.
(Two weeks later her brother shouts
the alarm to her father and mother. Now
there’s a line that cannot be crossed,
and still I hear my son behind his door
weeping and whispering in the dark,
voices on the line, their secrets abhorred.)
Once a white boy fell in love with my aunt.
She left for the camps, never saw him again.
Ojii-san disapproved. He was from Japan.
Five young Somali men shot or knifed
last year in our precinct. Others have vanished
to Mogadishu, war lords, civil strife.
The FBI, the police, what do they know?
Fathers, mothers, where’s your daughter, your son?
Children, children, all this started so long ago.
Tonight as I make our bed, my son sneaks
in, leaps my back with his heavy new body;
and with war yelps wrestles me to the sheets.
Of course I don’t let him beat me. Grunting
back, I toss him off like the years, gapple
his torso down, pinion each young wing,
though even as he cries out I give,
assenting to the father, I cannot grip
him tight enough, I cannot let go.