“Off to College Abecedarian” by Devon Balwit

Devon Balwit


Arguably, we fit his whole life in a hand-
basket, hauling it through the quad into the dorm, past bowls of
condoms (way more than any two strangers should need!).
Diffidently, he one-last-hugged us before slipping away,
eager to find his place in the sea of 
faces (masked and unmasked) 
glimpsed through half-open doorways. His father and I thought of our own college
hellos—hello sexual identity, hello spiritual quests, hello
identification with global independence movements. Our
journey home was longer than the one coming. We
knew the house would echo, that the chickens would
lament their lost protector. I wanted not to be that
mother who over-texts, broadcasting loneliness and
need. Still, my finger hovered 
over the keys before I took myself for a walk. 
Perhaps I also will discover a new me in these newly
quiet days, but I doubt it. Old 
ruts run deep. Not like my son, trying a real
shabbat for the first time, learning 
the words to prayers I recite only phonetically. It’s
up to him now to save the world and keep us from
veering even more off course. When I see him next,
we’ll have to establish a new balance, the
x of our family mobile subtly shifted. Just 
yesterday, I lamented the demands of motherhood. Now, reset to
zero, I mourn the very freedom I’ve regained.

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022


Devon Balwit: “Many days, I’ll have prepared the greatest lesson I can—bells and whistles, profundity and music—and my students won’t look up from their phones. Writing poetry helps me overcome that soul-crushing frustration. Through poetry, I look past the clock, the institutional drywall, and my thwarted ego. It lets me put my stamp on my experience and stand awhile outside of time.” (web)

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