When We Were Children

When We Were Children


When we were children

we weren’t tall enough 

in height or mind

to track the world's direction;

our algorithms didn’t add up

we kept no ledgers

balancing good and bad

we only knew the difference 

by the scent of toast

that seeped through skin

warmed by the sun

or by the sting of wind 

across hard snow where

feet grew numb 

when we sought shelter

from the bullets 

in our father's voice.


We were short on numbers

short on names

but knew the secret of the sky;

we knew the sun 

could hide inside its vault

and that a cloud 

could slice the moon-- 

we watched it mend

loom pale, then bold;

we touched the bark of trees

and smoothed the calluses

that sealed their wounds;

we knew that pores 

in brick and stone

exhaled at night 

sounds, secret flavors

they inhaled all day;

saw how bees, birds, squirrels

kept a contract with the earth

that made men covet it

for their exclusive realm.


Our mothers swept

shook dust and soil

back into earth

and made our home 

a clean, well-lighted realm

where we could grow up

members in a public sphere.


Our minds grew tall

our thoughts unearthed

we chanted names and numbers

we learned to stamp our value

on certificates, tokens, coins;


we were no longer children

we were dismembered 

from the secret of our life.


--Mara Lemanis


Images: 1) Greek mythology, 2) Greek myth--Iris with infant Hermes