'A Blessing from My Sixteen Years' Son'

A poem from 'Sinners Welcome'

Listen to Karr read this poem.

I have this son who assembled inside me

during Hurricane Gloria. In a flash, he appeared,

in a tiny blaze. Outside, pines toppled.

 

Phone lines snapped and hissed like cobras.

Inside, he was a raw pearl: microscopic, luminous.

Look at the muscled obelisk of him now

 

pawing through the icebox for more grapes.

Sixteen years and not a bone broken,

nor single stitch. By his age,

 

I was marked more ways, and small.

He’s a slouching six-foot, three,

with implausible blue eyes, which settle

 

on the pages of Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”

with profound belligerence.

A girl with a navel ring

 

could make his cell phone go buzz,

or an Afro-ed boy leaning on a mop at Taco Bell--

creatures strange to me as dragons or eels.

 

Balanced on a kitchen stool, each gives counsel

arcane as any oracle’s. Rodney claims school

is harshing my mellow. Case longs to date

 

a tattooed girl, because he wants a woman

willing to do stuff she’ll regret.

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They’ve come to lead my son

 

into his broadening spiral.

Someday soon, the tether

will snap. I birthed my own mom

 

into oblivion. The night my son smashed

the car fender then rode home

in the rain-streaked cop car, he asked, Did you

 

and Dad screw up so much?

He’d let me tuck him in,

my grandmother’s wedding quilt

 

from 1912 drawn to his goateed chin. Don’t

blame us, I said. You’re your own

idiot now. At which he grinned.

 

The cop said the girl in the crimped Chevy

took it hard. He’d found my son

awkwardly holding her in the canted headlights,

 

where he’d draped his own coat

over her shaking shoulders. My fault,

he’d confessed right off.

 

Nice kid, said the cop.

 

(for Dev Milburn)

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