Childhood #1 - Mark Simpson

Childhood is found matter,

light and dark in turn, pointillistic,

the way things shade, shine forth, take in,

the long breath of those years an anti-mindfulness

because you’re out there, a day or two late or early,

it doesn’t matter.


Childhood, small bird pecking at the catkins of a birch—

they’re flowers after all—

the way the bird passes through, comes back, making

up its mind in an instant, each instant new—

a new day, a new suit, a new pair of shoes


until one day it wears the skullcap of quietus,

like Georges Rouault’s “Self Portrait with Cap,”

a lithograph from 1926, black and white,

from which the painter stares with shadow-

like intensity. You don’t need


to know anything about lithography to catch the haunt,

the one-off, like childhood pouring out its ink

to a thirsty world.

Mark Simpson is the author of Fat Chance (Finishing Line Press). Recent work has appeared in Sleet (Pushcart Prize nominee), Columbia Journal (Online), Third Wednesday, and Apeiron Review. He lives on Whidbey Island, Washington, where he farms several acres of once-forest, raising what the climate and land allow. He has a calendar, and as each day passes, he places a careful X in the small white square of yesterday.

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