Not as the World Giveth: Poetry

By Javen Tanner



Consumed by silence, in a clean house,

myself as a child notices he is alive,

notices his own breath in everything he touches.


He experiences the present as a memory,

each object as a photograph: he sees his father’s clenched jaw

in the corner of the hearth, his mother’s song


in the curve of the vase. In his stillness there is no fear,

and so he says, “I love them. I love them.”

He is alone. There is no one else to hear.




I ask my daughter if she is happy. I want to know

if I’ve been negligent, if she is hiding some hurt

she cannot bear to share. “I am happy,” she says,


meaning “Why would you ask me such a question,

when we together have sat quietly watching the

snowfall, and both sanctified for it?” She pauses,


and I do not answer. “When I leave you, father, I will send

you comfort, you will remember everything,

and begin to understand the way I hurt.”




After the baptism, I straighten my son’s tie. His face

blotches red, his eyes blur. “Are you okay?” I ask,

and he almost completes, “I just feel happy.”


We are alone in a small church dressing room.

I face him in silence. Even the sounds of family and friends

beyond the door hush into brushstrokes painting wings.


He looks at me, startled, as if to say, “I cannot speak,”

as if, too young to bear it, the burden

of comprehension is now fully his.


Javen Tanner


Comments are closed.