My middle son is missing something
in the middle of the middle of his chest.
For 21 years, he was my youngest son;
then there was this calling it quits
followed by a starting over (for me).
Now he is in the middle.
He was five when the doctor told us
about that hole and that murmur.
Nothing to be worried sick about after all –
just watch for infection.
I watch. I see how he loves to smoke
some things more than other things.
He speaks slowly. I see all the signs of an infection.
My middle son, when he was still my youngest son
and before he grew tall, learned to drive with the ball
and blow right past me and take it all the way to the hole.
He’d walk back to the line and wait for me to toss him the rock.
My god, that smile.
by Danny Earl Simmons, first published in Avatar Review.
Editor’s Note: This poem speaks on multiple levels, using subtle repetition to describe what love for one’s child feels like (from youth to adulthood).