Down by the river, my little son
Is snapping twigs and tossing them
To see the runoff carry them away.
I watch until my mind goes wandering.
“What’s that red stuff?” I hear him say.
I look down, absently, to see
His white star-fingers staining red
With a thing he has no word for.
He is not afraid to touch and taste it.
The pain has not yet arrived.
But I see the moment when it does
And I watch it change his face.
When tears are dried and wound is bound
I teach him the word for it –
But the meaning of the word is half
The meaning of the world
And I won’t teach him that today.