“Photo of Myself at Three” by Dick Johnson

Dick Johnson


That kid’s not tough. Too gentle, hoping
for the best—those cheeks waiting to smile
& decent wool shorts of a more openhearted era—
at the Bronx Zoo so happy to be up to his elbows
in fleece, he & the lamb both grinning.

Followed half a century of war.
Turned out the kid was tough; he’s here,
seeing & saying. Others bent as he was
have pulled up death’s blanket, or lived
opposed, besieged & clenched & quiet,

but he was saved, by the suppleness he had
from his lovely mother, who stands in the photo
graceful as a winter elm tall & curved.
She gave him her deep power to bend
& run before wind like the grasses

that never oppose, but have such abundant being
fire, stone, oceans cannot starve or stay them.

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003

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