Henri Cole


Harvard Classics


It is the hour of lamps.
On our knees my mother
and I, still young, color
with crayons threadbare nap

on the livingroom rug.
Though there is no money,
no one seems to care. We
are self-possessed as bugs

waving their antennae
through cracks in the kitchen's
linoleum floor. When
Father begins to read

from the red gilt volume
in his lap, a circle
of light encapsulates
us like hearts in a womb.

Except their marriage is
already dead. I know
this though I'm only six.
So we visit Pharoahs,

a boatman on the Nile,
Crusaders eating grapes
on a beach. Life escapes
with all its sadness while

two tragic Greek poets
inhabit Father's voice.
Who'd know I'm just a boy
when he begins a stoic

moral tale concerning
a dull provincial doctor's
young French wife. If Mother,
in French, begins to sing

to herself, I know she's
had enough. Crayon stubs
litter the crumbling rug.
Our prostrate cat sneezes

at the dust in her fur.
And cries from a swallow
remind us one swallow
doesn't make summer.

Submitted: Sunday, July 23, 2006
Edited: Wednesday, August 18, 2010

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