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 is the writer of six books, including Eumaeus Tends, and Selenity Book Four. His new book Sorgmantel, follows a view of Lucretius, but employs time, the predicate of physics, into a search for what can be imagined out of the possible and impossible. It can be read, perhaps, as an elegy for generations whose existence humankind is threatening, including humankind. Sederstrom was raised and lives in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and the North Woods of Minnesota. Read other articles by Richard Fenton.