The Worlds I Know

Don't breathe, I tell my son,
they'll die. We lean over the cold
blue hood of the car, bend close

to watch the first flakes,
small as salt grains,
light and break or stay whole.

I point a numb finger:
Look there, tiny perfect stars,
I say without speaking,

only with my eyes, and he nods,
smiles, shows me one of his—
a palace so ephemeral

it floated here. I wish I had
a magnifying glass. I wish
I had another life to give him

the worlds I know, the worlds
I don't, and together we could
enter the church of a diamond.

I'll have to settle for this:
a logging spur two rutted miles
above Rattlesnake Gorge.

Over a broken pine, just visible
against grey, a red-tailed hawk
traces lonely ovals.

Flags of green moss cling
to a bony snag. He's tall,
nearly as tall as me.

Our lungs give out
and the ghosts inside us rise.
He shivers in bitter air,

says nothing, and I know too
well it's time to move on,
the snow normal now, not strange

lace along the line of hills.
On the quiet ride down, our hearts
whisper from their separate cells.

Ed Harkness | Mudlark No. 13
Contents | My Son's Drawing of a Smiling Deer