When 17

family-picnic_itop_01

When you were seventeen I saw you on the edge of my life,
nowhere near the center of who I thought I might be.
The silken hair on your arms, I’d study how it shined,
like none other I had seen.

Then one day I craved to be with you, and the agony
of adult reality settled over both of us. Children entered,
and we became distracted from the main flow around us.

I spent those years in a tiny space in several tall
California buildings, being as intelligent as I thought
my employers might like for me to be. But I
was good at pretending, and the years

stacked higher into my graying head. Now I have
an opening for poetry, for seeing the world of
flowers and dense forest, where the end of the day
has no special marking.

And here is the poem that I thought about writing
when I first read about Li Po’s merchant wife, and
wondered to myself just how far I might go
to meet you even though that seventeenth year
lags behind us.

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