Published on Academy of American Poets (

Magnitude and Bond

More than anything, I need this boy
so close to my ears, his questions

electric as honeybees in an acreage
of goldenrod and aster. And time where

we are, slow sugar in the veins
of white pine, rubbery mushrooms

cloistered at their feet. His tawny
listening at the water’s edge, shy

antlers in pooling green light, while
we consider fox prints etched in clay.

I need little black boys to be able to be
little black boys, whole salt water galaxies

in cotton and loudness—not fixed
in stunned suspension, episodes on hot

asphalt, waiting in the dazzling absence
of apology. I need this kid to stay mighty

and coltish, thundering alongside
other black kids, their wrestle and whoop,

the brightness of it—I need for the world
to bear it. And until it will, may the trees

kneel closer, while we sit in mineral hush,
together. May the boy whose dark eyes

are an echo of my father’s dark eyes,
and his father’s dark eyes, reach

with cupped hands into the braided
current. The boy, restless and lanky, the boy

for whom each moment endlessly opens,
for the attention he invests in the beetle’s

lacquered armor, each furrowed seed
or heartbeat, the boy who once told me

the world gives you second chances, the boy
tugging my arm, saying look, saying now.


Copyright © 2019 by Nicole Terez Dutton. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 25, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This poem, which borrows its title from a line the Gwendolyn Brooks poem ‘Paul Robeson,’ began as a remembrance of my father who was an enormously joyful person with a keen eye and a mischievous sense of humor. As a doctor my father spent his days helping people through their trauma, and many evenings relaxing with his dogs in the woods outside our house, listening. Sometimes I sat with him and listened while he pointed out deer or the sound of bullfrogs; it was his way to be curious, alert to the world, receptive. Like my father, my son is watcher, attentive to things large and small, a good listener, present. This poem carries the hope that I learned the things my father taught well, and that in spite of any and everything else, should he need it, something of my father’s gentleness and strength, something of those slow, wooded evenings, will be here in these lines for my boy.”
Nicole Terez Dutton


Nicole Terez Dutton

Nicole Terez Dutton is the author of If One Of Us Should Fall (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012). She is an editor at Transition Magazine and The Baffler, and teaches in the Solstice Low Residency MFA program. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Date Published: 2019-10-25

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