In Security

He doesn’t smile,
this child behind the fence rails,
small boy whose face fills some part
of me with my own face,

unsmiling and perfectly . . .
something like,
but not really,
happy.

Happenstance—
a property of grace.

He looks through the fence rails,
the boy who needn’t smile.
I look through the rails—
wrought iron,

decorated at the top of each rail
with a black acorn I think, or pineapple—
something innocent, menacing—
pretty, commonplace, fading.

I do not remember.
I haven’t looked that far into the wider gloom for . . .
I don’t remember beyond
the single focus that—

I look through the rails.
I approach the face of the small boy
whose unsmiling face
is a glory of degrading peace—

and as I approach,
the fence decorations recede
into some ether beyond my narrow reach of sight,
and the rails close in on his face and on my eyes.

The rails thicken in my approach,
or the approach of those rails toward me—
and thicken.
They thicken, I say, into bars—

thick, black, corroded
like the two faces in the poem
that dissolve with the poem
behind the malignant smear of bars.

Richard Fenton Sederstrom was raised and lives in the North Woods of Minnesota and the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. He is the author of five books of poetry, notably Disordinary Light, and most recently Eumaeus Tends, based on the few lines of The Odyssey that are axial to our understanding of the power and complexities of love. A new book, a new experiment, Selenity Book Four appeared in February, 2017. Read other articles by Richard Fenton.