I love you but I don’t know you
               —Mennonite Woman

When I was seven, I walked home
with Dereck DeLarge, my arm
slung over his skinny shoulders,
after-school sun buffing our lunch boxes.
So easy, that gesture, so light— 
the kind of love that lands like a leaf.
It was 1963.  
We were two black boys
whose snaggle-toothed grins 
held a thousand giggles.
Remember? Remember
wanting to play
every minute, as if that 
was why we were born?
Those hands that bring us
shouting into this life
must open like a fanfare 
of big band horns.
Though this world is nothing
like where we’d been, 
we come anyway, astonished
as if to Mardi Gras in full swing.
There must be a time
when a child’s heart builds 
a chocolate sunflower
while katydids burnish the day
with their busy wings.
This itching fury that 
holds me now—this knowing
the early welcome
that once lived inside me
was somehow sent away:
how I talk myself back
into all the regular disguises
but still walk these streets
believing in the weather
of the unruined heart.
My friends, with crow’s feet
edging their eyes,
keep looking for a kinder
city, though they don’t
want to seem naïve.
When was the last time
you wrapped your arm
around someone’s shoulder
and walked him home?

Copyright © 2024 by Tim Seibles. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 19, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.