Set free, I don’t gush like water from a dam.
I don’t writhe like a mouse that escapes a sticky trap.
I don’t look back like a letter that flees the mother
Alphabet, knowing full well the cost of its decamping.
I collect shells, which I haven’t done since

I was a boy and blind to suffering of this type.
I trace tender ovals on the shiny glaze of this empty
Mussel like I’m stirring time. It’s the peaceable
Suspense I feel when I’m in a kitchen alone,
Considering the provenance of an ingredient.

I never know whether I’m older or younger
Than I want to be. Is milk my touchstone, or wine?
I wonder whether my life will rise, a soul-soufflé,
Before I am a shell, too. My knees hurt
Like they know where I’m going, set free.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 39 Number 4, on page 48
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