Small Hearts

When the front door opened
it was thunder in the western sky.
It was Kennedy on TV.
A man in Russia.

When we sat small beside his feet
it was cold air dropping
air raids crying
bodies face down
heads covered
with children’s hands.
It was bombers flying
monkey bars rusting
small hearts swelling.

When he paused to talk
to catch a breath
it was the old maple in our front yard
rooted and strong
before I was born.
It was the dark earth settling
under an Iowa field.

When we lifted our faces to hear his voice-
still children, still believing-
we were fresh green stalks
on farms just planted.
We were grasses
leaning eastward
toward a troubled sky.

When he moved across the world between us
he was a lost ship
on black water.
When he folded his arms
across his chest
trying to find a place to hang them
he was the Ferris wheel’s top swing
suspended in the night sky
without a star
barely lit against the fair below.
When we waited
he was the swing now rocking
my feet hanging
over his edge.

When he cleared his throat,
as he always did,
it was hot summer air
pressing upwards
swirling angrily
against a sky
of Canadian wind.

When he spoke
nine words froze
in the dry line
between earth and sky
between rise and fall.

I heard his words
but I will not speak them
when you ask me to.

When he left us
it was the iron hinge
on the warped barn door.
It was
one moment
depleted by the pull of time.

It couldn’t come true.
It couldn’t come true that
one day I know this
the next day I know that.