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Alex, 9

By Darlene Young

Cool you are, and warm.

Your nine-year-old body still knows how to romp,
Careen in delight,
Rejoice in flight of running or tickles
But only until you remember
You’re cool.

You might forget and sidle up to my hip
For a hug—but I’m careful
Not to mention it.

You muss your hair just so these days,
But your still-soft cheeks
Are sun-splashed with freckles you might
Let me kiss, if no one is looking.

You test.

You test your will against your parents,
Trying words and looks and tones
For prime effect.

You test your strength against your brothers
Wrestling on the floor with glee and then
With might and then
With fear to see you’re stronger
Than you thought:

Your own two hands can really break
A thing, or bone, or soul.
Lies can sometimes get you what you want
But power gets too hot sometimes—
You run to me, seared
Fingers in your mouth.

Other times you run to me with news—
So sure you are that I have never heard
Of cobras, satellites, volcanoes,
Gravity (my eagerness
Must mean it’s news to me)

Oh, yes, I’m eager.

For these days you often look past me,
Moving away along paths unfamiliar.
I long to follow, to wedge myself
Into the space between you and your fears,
Between you and the world,
Between you and your sins—
But this is holy ground:
Private space between you and your God.

I’ll leave you to him, then.
Surely he loves your freckles as I do,
Surely he’ll step in—and already has—
Into the place where I cannot come.

Meanwhile I get to watch from the front row
Witness the slow and breathtaking show:
That is the unfolding of a soul.

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About Darlene Young

Darlene Young lives in South Jordan, Utah, with her husband and four sons. She serves as the secretary for the Association for Mormon Letters and is acting poetry editor of Segullah. This year her baby is in kindergarten, and my how those afternoons fly!

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