Bindings, by Karol Neufeld

2011 Charles Shull Contest for Traditional Poetry, Second Place

Karol Neufeld

After the small wet shape has struggled out of the dark,
pushed past pain, slipped from safety into the air of self
you know; there’s no return for either one of you,
no going back to tenderness of nesting dolls, one
body holding the other, one sustaining shadow
bound with fragile tissue to another. Cells no more

will grow inside. Here’s what you don’t yet know: more
than your life you will love this child. In bed in the dark
you’ll imagine him in danger, pray that no grim shadow
will threaten him. He will come to you, proud of himself
for some little thing; you’ll hug him, feel his heart beat one
skin away. Every detail of his life concerns you:

food he eats, the socks and shoes he wears, stories you
read together before sleep. could you have known that more
and more your thoughts will wind around his welfare, one
by one your dreams will draw his days? His cries in dark
nightmare nights will summon your singing, bring him yourself
as a comforter. All will be well in your shadow.

Days follow days, age him into freedom; the shadow
of petulance lurks around the house. On good days you
chuckle together about the dog, you catch yourself
just before ruining the moment — Why can’t it be more
like this all the time?
Because he’s moving down the dark
trail of future, where you can’t go. There’s room for only one.

Suitcases, boxes go with him to find every one
of his dreams. The house seems sedate without his shadow,
but sun still shines through the windows. You wake in the dark,
restless, wide-eyed, with worrisome thoughts. Long ago you
could rely on touch to learn his story; now he’s more
than far away, he’s grown away. He has become himself,

and will share only what he chooses. You tell yourself,
It’s as it should be, and believe it. Yet for one
day, if only in a dream, you yearn to hold once more
his baby self secure in your arms, your mere shadow
bringing comfort, peace. The man will always be your
child, however old he grows or far he goes into the dark.

Below the cross Mary crouches, weeps in the shadow
of the Holy One. Here’s mother love, I tell you:
Judas’ mother sheds more tears somewhere in the dark.

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