My five year old nephew is currently huddled behind closed doors inside his family’s new freestanding pantry, where he fits neatly into the bottom cupboard. I know this because my brother texts me ongoing updates as to this fixation with the pantry, along with the fact that my nephew just declared he’s no longer a ninja genius but a secret agent. (Didn’t surprise me at all. I never bought the ninja genius line.) My nephew cracks me up and breaks my heart the way all little kids, over and over, break my heart.
The poem below makes me want to put my arms around every little kid in the world – the solemn-eyed children at the schools I visit, the cardboard sword-wielding child in this poem, my secret agent nephew, and every single one of the migrant children I keep seeing in photos, crying at the border. Maybe they don’t know how tiny they are. Maybe we don’t know how strong they are.
Halloween Vespers with Homemade Vader, by Adam Tavel
Bless the amber porch light that coronets
his flimsy helmet’s sheen and the ringlets
this dusk breeze bounces on elastic
straps, thin as earthworms baked black
atop the stoop. Bless the dragging cape
I forgot to hem that brooms its scrape
of maple leaves trailing down beyond
the sidewalk to a dozen murky ponds
pocking our gravel drive with day-old rain.
Bless this Sith Lord’s right glove stained
with juice — it transubstantiates to blood
from rebel galaxies that fought the flood
of clones who stomped peasant martyrs free
of blasters, cause, and zealotry.
Bless the cardboard saber crayoned red
that hums its slash through Wookiee dread,
each Tusken Raider’s door we dash
to swell our bucket’s mounting stash
before we tramp across another lawn.
Bless the mask that slides for coughs and yawns.
Bless the snacking boy who curses Jedi scum,
this son who cleaves my hand and calls me son.