Ode to My Sixteen-Year Old
Late at night I lie in bed and picture
The communication we could have had this evening
Before you retreated to your room
With a walled-in “goodnight.”
I see us in the kitchen while I toss ingredients
Into measuring cups and bowls, mixing the batter
For your sister’s thirteenth birthday cake, squinting at
The old, splotched recipe scribbled on scratch paper
While you lean your elbows on the counter—
All lanky leanness and knobby as a foal,
With just a hint of a shadow above your upper lip—
And talk to me of many things.
I hear morsels of your speech
Although I know beneath my preoccupation
You want me to hear you completely.
An “Uh-huh” here, an “Oh” there, are my responses
And sometimes a distracted “Really?”
As I have set my priority for this moment:
Getting this cake made.
Once it’s in the oven, I tell myself
I will have time to listen to you
With your run-on sentences, sarcastic wit and
Your desperate need to be responded to,
Always, it seems, when the timing’s awry,
But when the timing’s right, you’re not there.
I close the oven door on the cake pans
And you have cantered off
To escape your lack of effect on me.
Seeking you out does little good.
You are involved in other things—
The way I was.
So I lie here late at night and picture
The effect you have on me…
Son, it is forever.