The sun waits to rise on James Street
hiding behind buildings, peeking up from
under the edge of the world. The shadows
in the alley still have something of the night
about them, heavy and deep, but light has
begun to spread, running
like spring water, leaking up from underground
wells. Then I hear the creaking floorboards
above me, the sound of your small steps
on the stairs, the scraping of your socks
on the carpet, the tiny breaths.
The tiny breaths.
We are all so fragile.
“I must have coffee,” I tell you, but you squeak
for pancakes, so pancakes it is, and I measure out
the flour, pour the milk, melt the butter. Vanilla.
Soda and powder. The batter is thin and golden and
it sizzles on the griddle. “We are so rich,” I tell
you. Your eyes watch. You want to help mix. You sit
on the counter, the best of me, the best
this world has to offer.
The best of me.
Suffer little children
and forbid them not from
mixing the pancake batter.
I walk three blocks to the polling station and stand
in line. I am only one, and on days like this, that is sweet
relief. My vote is only my vote. I do not hold the weight
of the world on my shoulders. Walking home, past
the hospital parking garage and the Lutheran church
and the corner store that sells milk on the edge of
expiration, I breath in the autumn. Today
is today. I wave to my friend across the street, the one
waiting for a kidney. He waves
back and smiles.
I decide that in the afternoon I will take you and the rest
to the park, help you into the swing, chase you through
the tube slide. You will shock me when you get to the bottom,
the fall and the cold clinging to you like a lightning bolt.
“No matter what happens, we must
love our neighbors. Even if they vote for you-know-
who,” I whisper in your small ear, holding you tight,
because you are the only
person in the world
who will listen. You smell of colorful, dead
leaves and new things.
We walk home as the nation chooses. We stop
at the crosswalks and look both ways. The darkness comes
earlier these days. The shadows are fast and we race
them, their outstretched hands reaching for us all the way
along that last length of sidewalk, all the way to the front
door. Tomorrow, I will wave to my friend again. Tomorrow,
I will make you pancakes, if you
like. Tomorrow, we can wake early and watch
the light spread into the world.