His cowlicks are joined
by the rest of his hair
as he dangles from the banister,
his flannel shirt small, thin, flapping.
Sneakers back on linoleum,
he pull up his shirt to show me
the stripe of bruises across his ribs. Says
he fell off a bunk bed. Says he cried
but it doesn't hurt now.
For weeks he talked
of visiting his mom in Nevada.
How was it? I asked him,
the trials and joys of Christmas
over for both of us. Tears,
shaky lip. We didn't go, he says.
She moved again, and we didn't know
how to find her address.
He likes books about science,
sea shells, has never seen the ocean
that lies an hour's drive
from this valley where mill smoke
makes the morning air sharp.
I read to him, I listen.
Together we form simple words
and do what we can.
Cecelia Hagen was Fiction Editor for the Northwest Review for many years. Her work has been published inPortlandia, Exquisite Corpse, Prairie Schooner, Poet & Critic, Puerto del Sol, and in the book, From Where We Speak, an anthology of Oregon poets. She has a chapbook forthcoming at the end of this year from 26 Books Press. You can see more of Cecelia Hagen's work in Caffeine Destiny.