He’s eighteen, he’s grown-up, and yet
He turns these memories over in his hands,
Like toys he used to love
But cannot bring himself to ever show.
It’s summer in the early night,
He’s wandering the streets
Of this hometown he cannot wait to flee.
He knows it’s time to be
Responsible, to make his way,
To cast aside the childish things
That meant so much to him
Not long ago.
He’s eighteen now, grown-up, and yet
He turns these feelings over in his mind,
Like some stuffed animal
He clung to as a kid when he was scared.
A block from plaza discount stores,
The playground where he used to run,
Negotiating sandy bits of conflict,
Now he leans upon the fence, but this
Has changed its aspect now for him:
Like noticing the castaway beer bottles,
Empty condom wrappers, and detritus
Congregating near the rusty barrels
Used as trash cans. Once, he only saw
The field, the sand, the swingsets, and
The other kids; but now he knows, that
Growing up means ugliness
He’s eighteen and afraid, and yet
He takes it all in, musingly,
May change the way he feels, but doesn’t really
Mean the world has changed.
And still, he turns it over in his mind,
Like toys from Vietnam,
His father sent him when
A wooden elephant
Meant he would be back soon and safe;
But soon and safe
Don’t go together now