You carry our son in a locket
you hang around your neck
each morning, a way, I guess,
of carrying what isn’t and what is,
a past that must be kept
present even as the past recedes.
It circles your neck like the string
your mother tied to your finger
in childhood for memory’s sake,
though you don’t need a reminder
to open the locket and let our son breathe,
even if his picture takes your breath away.
In the picture, he is bent over his phone,
his look mischievous, both dimples showing,
as if he’s just sent off a sly, tongue-in-cheek
text to one of his brothers, or you.
I like the way you look in on him, opening
what you might have locked away,
even when each time the force of horror
meets head-on the force of your love,
and squeezes your eyes shut.
Robert Cording is professor emeritus at College of the Holy Cross and a mentor in the Seattle Pacific low-residency MFA program. His most recent collection is Without My Asking (CavanKerry). New work is forthcoming in the Georgia Review, New Ohio Review, Hudson Review, and The Common.