Childhood As Palimpsest

There are traces of you as a child each time I 

Watch you try on new clothes – 

How you bow your legs, stick your butt out, curl

Your shoulders

To look like you may have looked at 9 when your mother

Exhaled hard, told you to stand up straight to see

If those pants really fit.

And then tugged at your waistband, to which you

Would waggle forward and back. 

Uncooperative as you would be at 10, 11, 12, 

13, 14


Before you became unspeakable.


You are not quite

Worn to that shock blonde boy so often

When you run your fingers wrong

Across the shingles of our house to bring it gently

Down to foundation, before

Carefully constructing the roof back over

everything, how your lips protrude


As if you hadn’t grown into them at all

in 1991 or 1992 during your first year

Away from home. 


That childhood is still so curious

Of what might be there


Each time you talk about the

Forest, I recall you are standing


At the edge

Of the dark forest

Your long arms hanging down

At your sides

Fingers limp and curled;

Your shoulders curled forward


Your weight placed forward

At the balls of your feet

So that your whole body

Leans toward the darkness

As if your body is pulled

As if you are about to launch

To find the source of the 

Voices calling out

From the dark forest.


Each time I watch you try on

New clothes

You bow your legs

stick your butt out, and

Curl your shoulders

To look like you may have 

Looked at 9

When your mother

Told you to 

Stand up straight

To see if those pants

Really fit,

And you are back

At the edge of the dark 


Calling out

Shouting back

At the Bugbear,

We weren’t supposed to leave him behind


He’s asking to be raised.

Althea Seloover, 2020