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The littlest ones, whose fingers chalk the walls,
unravel sky-blue knits, a bear's marble eyes —

they have no blackboards for the early lessons:
it is impossible, father says, to love something

too much. Love is a bat too big around to hold,
a shoelace with a whip's plastic tail. Sometimes

love is a bear stuffed in a basket, head pressed
close to chest. Sometimes it lies in the embrace

of an inherited mitt, golden from oil, a prince's
hands thrust inside, the cords of dark tendons.

The littlest ones wish, with an oak or chalk moon
in the window, to have the biggest hands of all.


Princes are not allowed to be young; not when
the king's member swells to a royal porphyry

down among the azaleas and orchard orioles,
a bitter decree on his cheeks. Garden hoses lie

coiled in the drive, a pile of leaves banked
by the oak — not the birch. Father's beard

is colored green in apology for spring, salmon
for summer, mahogany for fall, with winter still

creeping in; he climbs the stairs with big, red
hands, steps pushing him up — his very house

conspires, lifts its shag carpet. Father darkens
the moon, reshapes his children's round faces

into crescents; he doesn't want to do it, but
he knows it is impossible to love too much.


Jet black is the best solvent, the blackest skull
that boys can wear, light's absence the finest

purgative for white bone. Father is so prodigal
with his cares — the songs of boys must be loud,

their walls thick and fat, their cars with bodies
peeling, all metal scabs; their mufflers spitting

on the lawn. And when in darkness, curtains
drawn, moon faded to drapery, princely boys

must check twice on every window and door,
lock them tight against each sliver of light.

      — Seth Abramson