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Children’s Literature

ISSUE:  Summer 2005

On this page, the stranger stands at the screen door,
holding a bunch of tulips wrapped in wet newspaper,
the ink a bruise spreading across his thumb and palm.

“Take them,” he says, “I can’t stand the sting
of the smeared text. There’s no prophesy here.
Give these dumbfounded flowers to your daughter.

Don’t tell her they’re the color of blood
on her skinned knee. Tell her it’s her job
to fill the cobalt vase. Don’t forget to say please.

You’ll see her delight when she presses
the chair against the cabinets and climbs up.
You’ll see her competent hand turn on the faucet,

the water stitching the air with light.
And if you hear an unintelligible murmuring,
don’t try to understand. Don’t try to read

before your time. Look at the pictures
and take it from there. See, here’s a tiny you
scrambling down the bridge of your nose.

You slide down the slope made slick by tear ducts,
stand on the precipice of the brain, tower
above the city built of quartz blocks of sleep,

where the clock tower and the library are ever
under construction, aspiring to reach cumulous clouds.
And there are the cranes and workers in miniature,

enameled toys glimmering in the sand pile—
the planes, taxis, the bank, the hospital, firetrucks,
ambulances, the dumptrucks and bulldozers,

the hands that make the action happen, the child
voice coming from above, making up the story—
this is the scary part—but don’t worry—there’s a

happy ending. Take these tulips from me, now,
before you turn the page. Let’s play pretend.
Let your eyes wander past the newspaper wadded

on the counter. See, your daughter’s showing you
she’s unwrapped my gift, and she thrusts the red
petals in your face, the wet stems in her fist.”


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