Sheltering In

by Christen Noel Kauffman

When this is over, your hair
will be to your waist and the curls
may be gone, the way they stretch
even now into loose waves I want
to bury my eyes into, bury my heart.
When this is over you will ask
if your grandmother’s voice
was always the color of sky, if her
hands always looked so brown,
and I might forget to tell you
you looked like her once, in a photo
she keeps on the refrigerator door.
When this is over, you’ll know
how to spell the tallest tree, map
every beetle burrowed in the yard
as if you were born in the grass,
fed the grass, lived your whole life
in the shadow of the grass we
can’t even call ours. I wanted more
for this year, for your sister
in the swing, for your birthday
in the kitchen – when this is over
I will turn you loose from these walls.
We’ll walk into a rose-lit sun,
stretch our backs with the skeletons
of cities relearning how to breathe.
When this is over, I’ll show you
the new world we’ve made
while you played in the garden hose,
the water so clear you can see
to the other side, forget the yellow
lines that tell you not to cross.
You’ll be different little one, thinned
cheeks and sloped nose, a new pair
of shoes from a box on the porch.
When this is over, the ghosts
will return to their hollow stones
for the first time in a year, their faces
a memory we’ll carry in our lungs.

CHRISTEN NOEL KAUFFMAN teaches and lives in Richmond, Indiana with her husband and two wild daughters. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Tupelo Quarterly, The McNeese Review, The Cincinnati Review, Willow Springs, Booth, and DIAGRAM, among others.

Featured Image: “Caution Tape on Park Swing” by JoLynne Martinez