Two Boys

(2007 – Noah is 2 years old)

Two boys ride face to face,
Feet sunk into the well of the
new Radio Flyer wagon that has waited
in the garage since Christmas
until this first warm day of May.
One boy (not mine) sits, head on a
swivel, repeats: “Two boys.”
Then, “Twooo Boooyys.” Proud
of his naming himself and my son.
His mama tells him, at a crosswalk,
about the busy street, stop lights, walk
sign. She tells him, “When the light
is red, stop, and look both ways. Wait
until you see the little man
appear, and we can cross.” He looks
both ways. “Two boys.” He chatters
about the park, the stairway down
to the beach, something about shells.

My son says nothing, faces forward, back
bow-shaped. His hands grasp tightly
the sides of the wagon. I do not bother
to tell Noah to look both ways. He will not
remember, he will not describe where we go,
or maybe not even know. He may not know
that the boy who sits across from him
is Harry. Though Harry looks at me
and says, “Noah’s Mommy,” though
they play together each week, or Harry
plays and Noah wanders room to room.

On the beach, Harry builds sand castles
with molds, covers his mother’s feet
with sand and giggles with delight
as she unearths her toes, a game.
My son feeds sand into his own
mouth, hand over hand. Flushed with heat,
Noah’s cheeks are red, and he is heavy
in my hands as I move him back
To the blanket. He cries and I use my finger
to crook out some sand before he bites, before
they see what he has done. His lank body
is soon exhausted by the exertion of sitting
upright in tumble-over sand. He will not
stay still, and enough is enough. I want
a spaceship make us dapple and disappear, whoosh
back up the steep and lengthy stairs,
over the blocks of fine houses,
the wagon a magic carpet. Instead, we struggle
as they ascend before us, knowing
to offer help is no help at all.

Sweat drips into my eyes but my hands
are full, holding both Noah
and the railing tightly. When Noah
seizes, he gets hot hot hot
just like this, and we layer cool
washcloths on his chest both to
soothe and to stimulate. Perhaps
I should have headed the other way
toward the water, to the cool waters
of Lake Michigan, to the edge
of the lake, dip him in, a christening.

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