Academic journal article Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought

Sober Child

Academic journal article Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought

Sober Child

Article excerpt

How many times had he dashed past me?

He'd run and run, climb onto the thick

stone walls, stretch his arms into the ribs

of morning light, shake his head,

then jump down into a steady stride,

spinning his feet until exhaustion

or the layered light near the end

of day. He coughed some, as if

he didn't know what to say, but got after

the mules so they would harrow the earth,

his eyebrows raised in the slight vault

of wonder. For his father, he first tossed

jasper, then hauled buckets of dross,

the dregs of metal dusting his arms

and embedding in his fingertips. For his mother,

he'd slit and hang a young ram, seethe

its caul and kidneys, prepare the hocks

just for himself. He must have been close

to his tenth year when I caught him carrying

unleavened bread across a field. He sensed

somehow that burdens would hunt him down.

And he knew I'd watched him hearken

in the synagogue, its hard seats and elegant trim,

cherubic gilt, how it had always been,

how it shall be, edged in his voice down

to his knuckles, in his hands and back up

out of his mouth after he passes through the shaft

of night's inevitable plea, after he

understands the scorn for plain words and shadows

when he will soldier between heaps of the dead

for one more hoist of flag and sword

and will keep advancing in the open road

while the armies shriek at his calves and heels

like a pack of dogs, jousting and feral,

jaws, snouts, and teeth slitting skin; how I

believed him when he said he could bank

a fire during the coldest night in winter,

then he pointed to the stars and affirmed

the zeal in gold plates, agreed to the record-

keeping charge, and ran on. …

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