The cry of the cicada
Gives us no sign
That presently it will die.

 

 

                                              —Translation by William George Aston

This poem is in the public domain.

On the beach, close to sunset, a dog runs
toward us fast, agitated, perhaps feral,
scrounging for anything he can eat.
We pull the children close and let him pass.

Is there such a thing as a stray child? Simon asks.
Like if a mother had a child from her body
but then decided she wanted to be a different child’s mother,
what would happen to that first child?

The dog finds a satisfying scrap and calms.
The boys break free and leap from rock to rock.
I was a stray man before I met your mother,
you say, but they have run on and cannot hear you.

How fast they run on, past the dark pool
your voice makes, our arms which hold them back.
I was a stray man before I met you,
you say. This time you are speaking to me.

From Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010 (Graywolf Press, 2010). Copyright © 2010 by Elizabeth Alexander. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press.