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Ode to My Sixteen-Year Old

Photo by Seth Centrell

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,

Like now…

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.

G.F. Cantrell

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