by Tim Seibles

                                          I love you but I don’t know you  
                                                          –Mennonite Woman

Sometimes somebody says something
and a lost piece of your life comes back:
When I was seven, I would walk home
with Dereck DeLarge, my arm

slung over his skinny shoulders,
autumn sun buffing our lunch boxes.
So easy, that gesture, so light—
the kind of love that lands like a leaf.

I’m trying to talk about
innocence: two black boys                                                                                     
whose snaggle-toothed grins
held a thousand giggles. 

Remember?  Remember
wanting to play
every minute, as if that
was why we were born?

Those hands that bring us crying
into the world, that first
hold us    must be like wings,
like gills. Though this place

is nothing like where we’d been,
we arrive almost blind, astonished
as if to Mardis Gras in full swing.
There must be a time

when a child’s heart builds
a chocolate sunflower—
the air, invisible velvet
touching his face.

I remember an inchworm
walking the back of my hand,
the way the green body bowed.
I tried to keep it with me all day. 

The change    must’ve come
slowly—the way insects go
silent with the autumn chill.
I want to understand

how each day ice grows
and thins beneath our feet:
This itching fury that holds me
now—this knowing

the soft welcome
that once lived inside me
was somehow sent away,
how I talk myself back

into all the regular disguises
but still walk these
American streets
believing in the weather

of the unruined heart.
Love: a secret handshake,
a password I just can’t recall.
My friends—their eyes

cornered by crow’s feet—
keep looking for a kinder
city    though they don’t
want to seem naïve.

When was the last time
you wrapped your arm
around someone’s shoulder
and walked him home?

Poem copyright 2022 by Tim Seibles. All rights reserved.

See more poems from Tim Seibles debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: Movie” and “The Last Black Cargo Blues Villanelle.”

Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay | Writing Prompt

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