Marlene M. Tartaglione


Though only four years old, he could shake a stick
like a New England storm, a Merlin
in temperament;
Curiosity pulled him like kite strings,
cats followed wherever he went;
Of course there were birds, ruffled ones
with broken wings & beaks;
He nursed them,
kept them warm, dressed their wounds
with milk
as they bobbed in & out of weeks.

What is there to say?

The sky pulled back like a magician’s deck,
hiding aces in its sleeves;
It nearly cracked
when the rain fell, but Adam love the smell
of the moist, struck leaves;
Blossoms all over the yard, branches in his hands,
he learned of survival, the language
only a landscape understands;
Light touched his face–

And he grew;

Above the red curve of Autumn, Adam’s face
skimmed the waist-high weeds,
searching for toads & disoriented beetles;
Nearby, pines formed the sign-of-the-cross,
scrub pines, shedding their needles
like minute-hands, those evergreen clocks
by seasons & the wind;

Their angular planes measured the zodiac’s head,
the thick, dark trunks strapped
with amber beads–
Woods surrounded him.
Ribbons turned into roads, long sunny days
spent untying knots;
He learned of loss & gain,
discovered childhood, animal needs–
Lessons he never forgot;
Above it all, the weight of nature’s perseverance:

And he grew;

So many years & ways! But–
Now the classroom calls…

From what moist cellar did you first come, my child,
your cheeks scarred from rubbing,
blood on your knees?
they wish to teach you
a different kind of climbing:
The law of sums, cinderblock walls
& all those shelves…
Forfeit the greenery–
They will give you a new look,
feed you numbers & the long division;
Soon, too soon, I know, they’ll install in you
their own sense of timing,
insisting the decision was yours,
as you subtract from yourself.
All my love cannot stop it!
How foolish they are,
drawing you maps,
ignoring the world inside your pocket!
They will say that world isn’t real–

But, you & I will know,
having found in it
the capacity to feel, as we touched each other,
& studied ways of giving….

… And, finally, when the school bus comes
to take you away, to haul you off
to the polite machinery
of books,
You will learn of paperbound talk,
afraid to glance backward
for one long, last look
at innocence.
They’ll distract you with colored cubes,
slick plastic cows painted jelly-bean green,
ducks that bark when they walk;
They will bring you alphabets in every hue,
monogrammed letters,
drawings of dollars & cents;
They’ll speak of logic, & call it living;
They always do. Always.

But, Adam, you will know better;

You must, my little friend–
There is no other way to continue. As you enter
life’s bullring with its odd pretenses,
remember the place from which
you came, & proceed;
Think of beginnings. Take only what you need;

Defend your life with your senses–

… And you’ll know.