Look at me, mother, I’m twelve years old,
half child and half grown.
Look at me, swinging the hand you hold,
rounded cheeks pruning closer to the bone.

Look away a moment and I’m gone.
Look away, mother, and try to forget
how quickly I grow up and wander on,
how sharply your heart seizes in your chest.

A simple second and I disappear,
a single second lengthening impossibly,
gripping your lungs in chronologic fear
with each moment you can’t find me.

Oh mother, I’ve hidden away in a house
that is not your own.
Oh mother, I have business to be about,
and even with you I’m so alone.

There are shadows in the streets
that reach for you as you search,
that chase after your feet –
splitting over you as they merge.

How desperately you try
to snatch me before they do,
to keep me safe and alive.
How desperately your love holds you.

Holds you as want to hold me.
Holds you even though
when you find me again you’ll see
how much I’ve already grown.

Anne M. Carpenter