The Needy

My son has learned there are some girls
to whom you cannot give a kitty and puppy valentine.
Afterward, the attachment becomes obsessive;
a whole week of recesses is ruined.
She follows closely to fix her shadow to his,
the boys wondering if he’s still fit for tag and
Indian wrestling. The games of longing grow more
dangerous I want to warn him. I want to tell him
never be afraid of the verbs: to honor, to cherish.
But am I not the man who as a boy
never sent an earnest valentine, who choked off
love before he could sign his name to
a picture of a cute and fuzzy animal?
All I needed was to mouth the words:
Be Mine, but my valentines weren’t talking.
They couldn’t bother with insinuating need.
Son, I fill with dull hope
that testosterone won’t poison you too,
that you will measure others by
the innocence you are given, the eagerness
that catches you unaware, an object
of surprise attack affection. It may seem foolish
to place this expectation on you, like fishing
only for beautiful fish from a river.
The waters run with many species of belonging.
You will not be asked to make allowances for
the desperate who seek your attention
with sweet candy hearts and chocolates
and pictures of vigorous bunnies.
You will stand a creature judging the vulnerable
though their need does not need to be forgiven.

Tim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books, 2009) and The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012) and has been published in U.S. journals including Prairie SchoonerIndiana ReviewNinth Letter, and Notre Dame Review. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup and the poetry video blog Linebreak Studios. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and Clade Song. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center.
*Photo courtesy of David Brookes.
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