I run my fingertips over the edge of the desk

feeling its marred pelt, trying to translate

the violent script he must have scribbled in

when he thought, No one is looking.

The pens he stole from the church house on

the Sundays he let me take him there, lying about

like strewn cigarettes, their heads gnawed down

with the stern concentration of adolescent lips

seeking answers. The paper he asked for in bulk

stuffed in drawers and overflowing trash lids.


I saw peach shaped bruises on his thumbs the other day

and he recoiled when I reached to wipe them off,

His familiar brown eyes turning swift shades

of black; for isolation. How those eyes are so like

my own and yet, unrecognizable. And the red lines

on the heel of his palm, I noticed and thought

from injury, but really, they were just lead hickies

and the bite of the desk. How I used to wash grass stains

and bug guts from his hands and toes in the tub,

he’s too big for that now. Too old for comfort.

They say it gets hard at this age.


My eyes scan the oak surface, in this stolen moment

while he is away, and the oven downstairs is

working to make a meal he won’t even taste;

the worn and old finish of his throne, silent

but jarring; The space feeling preternatural

like something sublime could happen here;

And maybe it does. The dark red walls we painted

together last summer.


I remember—

His thin elbows grinding the tabletop,

his profile glowing with the desk light and

the steady stream of music from beneath the door;

foreign sounds and images of someone I thought

I knew. When I dared to knock and enter,

His fingertips tracing the same lines over and over

in countless hours, just carving different symbols

making new scars to fill the spaces

then peeling off their skins

to dip the pen in its blood.

His quick gaze upward and fiery eyes, as though to say

You don’t belong here.

I don’t need you anymore.


Falling prey to the pen,

while losing time and friends and places;

them fearing the gaze of a mind uninterrupted.

and I feeling powerless, retreat to requisite

duties: clothe and feed and dress.


I maybe fear it too.


Whilst packing his lunch and watching him itch

at the dinner table, his hands restless and eyes

shifting as if searching or unsettled, like

he is already making his way up the stairs

to the solitude of that room, the cold embrace of

his desk; Where he thinks no one sees him,

No one’s looking, and his eyes don’t seem so

dead. I don’t recall which birthday party

changed it all; The last time he felt like

a child, now more like a ghost

dressed up as life.


Searching for the warmth he finds here

in the empty lines and crinkled paper,

I search for it so I may find it

and bring it alive, back into his life

and my part in it;

Though they say,

it is inane

coming from

one’s mother.


-D.N.B 2/11/13 edited: 3/28/13