By Kate Gaskin
It’s a terrible thing to say,
but imagining my son’s death
comes as naturally to me
as watching a cat trot off
with a bird clenched in its jaws.
Today, there is a crushed
cedar waxwing in the street,
its golden tail feathers splayed,
the red cherry of its chest
popped open like a mouth.
I found it on my run and thought
how impossible it is
to be so small, so easily undone.
This boy of mine runs
away from me into busy streets.
A museum’s noisy crowd
swallows him whole. At school
he cannot sit still or listen.
Once, his teacher said he threatened
another child with the sharp end
of a pencil. I did not
believe her, but what I believe
will not keep him safe
from how others
inevitably perceive him,
and so I imagine
what it would be like to lose him
as he tells me about dragons,
how there are four types:
sun dragons, moon dragons,
rain dragons, and, his favorite,
lightning dragons that hatch
from eggs that erupt
in shocks of electromagnetic
radiation. See them flying now?
He points to the night sky,
its feathery moon and stars
like puncture wounds, while above us
heat lightning unsettles
Kate Gaskin is the author of Forever War, winner of the Pamet River Prize (YesYes
Books, 2020). Her poems have appeared in journals such as Guernica, Pleiades,
and The Southern Review, and her work has been anthologized in the 2019 Best
American Nonrequired Reading. She has received support from the Sewanee
Writers’ Conference and the Vermont Studio Center.