The Flash

By Jennifer Givhan

My 11-yr-old son has forgotten not to eat on my bed            He loves watching The Flash
from my room with the widest windows, the warmest place in our house each winter,

& with the coneflower warmth of his brown skin veiled in his bright red suit, he tucks
his kinky curls under the cap & ghosts from room to room undetected, sneaking

cookies            till I climb beside him into piles of crumbs            You’re grounded I echo
& he is sobbing            but what he says catches

the pit of wax burning always inside me            We got him
into special ed classes last year after years of fighting with teachers & breakdowns

over homework & his father yelling You’ve got to learn to listen            & I kept insisting
he’s trying, he just doesn’t understand             & here he slides onto my floor,

tears & mucus streaming down his cheeks, onto the superhero costume he wears
24/7, the toddlers at the park following him around perennially because he’s Iron

Man, Flash, Capt. America—            Mama I don’t know what’s wrong with me
between hiccupping sobs            I forgot

I was hungry & your bed is so warm            & I’m afraid I’ll go to jail
when I’m a grownup       
      I’m afraid I’m bad            because I always do the wrong thing

& I’m hugging him on the floor where I’ve joined him
as sirens flick onscreen            thinking of how his little sister ties his shoes            how years

back his best friend said You have to learn to tie your shoes—do you want your mom
to tie them for you when you’re twenty? & we laughed            before we realized

we should not have been laughing            how at night I watch him breathing            & pray
because when I screamed at his father for screaming at him he said He has to learn

to listen! I’m trying to keep him safe

                         Much later I ask our boy with a milkshake in his hand
what he would do if the police, like they did to his daddy—

He beeps. Electronic Jeremiah is not here right now. Please leave a message.
He flashes so quick, I never see him vanish.


Jennifer Givhan is a former National Endowment for the Arts and PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices fellow who has been published in The New Republic, Indiana Review, Salon, Poetry, and other publications. The author of four collections of poetry and the novel Trinity Sight, Givhan holds a master’s degree in English from California State University Fullerton. She lives with her family in New Mexico.

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