POETRY

JUNE 2018

My Mom Takes My Nine-Month-Old Son to Put Down Her Dog

by BEN MICHELMAN

 JACOBA VAN HEEMSKERCK COMPOSITIE (BOOM) / COMPOSITION (TREE)

JACOBA VAN HEEMSKERCK
COMPOSITIE (BOOM) / COMPOSITION (TREE)

Was he silent as the vet explained
which organs would shut down first,
how painless her transition would be?

He’s starting to understand
the laws of this universe:
he drops his cup from his high chair,
then hangs over the side, 
staring to the floor.

But still, if I cover my face, I’m gone— 
when I peek-a-boo back into view,
his cheeks ball, and he holds
that open-mouthed smile.
I am constantly reborn.

Mom, did you hold his head against you
so he couldn’t see? 

He probably grasps it better than we do— 
his proximity to whatever not living is.
He hasn’t learned our assumptions:
that what we love will be here when we open our eyes.

Remember, his first thunderstorm?
How you sat him up, on the couch of your screened-in porch?
How he looked out, mouth agape?
How each boom-lit burst revealed a new world:
that knuckled oak, those trembling ferns?


Ben Michelman 
Ben Michelman is a husband to Julia and a father to Charlie. His work can be found in Barrelhouse, Up the Staircase, Spillway, and The Southern Tablet. He currently teaches and coaches eighth graders in Durham, North Carolina.