You swivel backwards, sniff your mother’s skin.
Then your blue gaze returns and scours the page.
It’s difficult, this needing to begin
in the middle. People live inside their age.
And you are lost now as you strain to learn
how letters are made by lines straightened or curled
into themselves. How when you read they turn
to speech, and speech to pictures of the world.
Maybe you know. You remember how we took
the Trailways. Banks then projects lifted faces
crusted with snow, you climbed our seat to look,
and Waltham and Chelmsford whooshed away to traces
jagged as names shrouded beneath your shrieks.
Now, the family room is a warm hold.
You smack the pages as your mother speaks.
Only the story goes on inside the cold
where a bear has clambered from his winter cave
to find a shopping mall. He blends with the flow.
Lands a job, an apartment, learns to shave.
You flinch, then laugh, at the words he doesn’t know.
Peter Campion is a Jones Lecturer in Poetry at
Stanford. His poems have recently appeared in PN Review, Slate,
Southwest Review, TriQuarterly, and other journals. (9/2003)