The 2River View 21.3 (Spring 2017)

James Harms

Accidental Bohemian

Slim boy on the sidewalk, you must be mine, headphones locked to your ears as light leaves the earth
around you, day draining away like a voice calling you in for dinner. You love the wind hiss at the edge
of song, the sweet leak of music that stains the air around your body as your walk turns to dance on this
quiet street near home. I slow the car to keep pace, to stay just behind and out of sight of you, to watch
you sing in a privacy so complete I’m called away, returned to some central mind in the sky beyond your
little brother’s small cloud (painted on blue paper and taped to the refrigerator), where each of us is stilled
in time and left at the open door, beyond which are windows without rooms, a place I’ll always join you.
Call it love.

From My Lips

Each night around ten
I stand over my son’s bed
for a few minutes and watch
him dream. I usually pull
the blankets closer to his chin
and kiss him before checking
the humidifier and stacking
the books on the floor next
to his bed, the books
he’s dragged under the covers.
We all do this, parents.

For years now I’ve loved
a song by Grant McLennan
called “From My Lips,” which
includes the following lines:
“Sometimes it all falls apart
at the seams, and you wish
for the peace of a child’s dream.”
And I’ll admit it, as I kiss
my son and tuck his covers
tight, I think about all that’s
fallen apart in our lives

and I lean in close and listen
hard to the dream leaking
from his little body. I let it
change the salt in my life
to sugar, at least for the few
minutes I stand there watching him.
His peace is no more complete
than any I might find, but I
believe in it. That’s what
McLennan means I think,
that it’s the surrender

that matters, not the treaty
that comes of it, a child’s
uncomplicated dream, not
how we interpret it. My son
and I both lost, but he deserves
none of the blame; his peace
has precious little back story;
and so it will save him.
I don’t need saving.
I need him. And I’m not
ashamed to say it.

James Harms is the author of nine books of poetry, including the forthcoming Rowing with Wings (Carnegie Mellon University Press). His distinctions include an NEA Fellowship and three Pushcart Prizes. His recent work appears in The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, The Missouri Review, Shenandoah, and The Southern Humanities Review.

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