I could hear something from the kitchen
where I stood paring apples for the pie
planned to mark the moment
of my 10-year-old’s playdate, his first
since the move and our first time
with a troop of boys over to trample
the flowerbeds, tear down the old treehouse
and, whooping and laughing,
strip the citrus trees bare. Boys will be boys,
I thought, so so so seduced by the plural-
my son for this day not alone,
but this sound was different.
Not the glorious cacophony
of boys-being-boys, but just one boy-my boy-
lying face down in the dirt
while a hail of green oranges rained down.

I helped him up, wiped his face,
and broke up the circle of boys,
boys with eyes cast down and sometimes
sickled sideways to wink or grin in a way
they thought I couldn’t see. I had a choice
then: make a scene and send them home?
Or, somehow allow them to stay?

There was the pie, and the desolate day ahead,
the desolate tomorrow, and the chain
of desolate yesterdays slung slack behind.

There was my son for whom,
it being his first playdate since the move,
this was a normal playdate, and who,
when I asked, said, You can’t
send them home-they’re my friends!

There was the ER Doc who’d told me
to go home where no one would have to try
to save him
, and his nurse, whose glass voice
asked me twice, have you ever prayed?
I needed them on board, and later, the teachers
who wanted to transfer or expel him.
His Sunday-night stomachaches, and the time
I saw him at recess in the bushes, hiding
his eyes so he would not be seen.

So there was all that, and the here-and-now
of a child unable to fathom malice or guile
and able to forgive anyone of anything.
There was also the pie. And, God forgive me,
I let those boys stay.
I practically begged them to stay.

Rebecca Foust