POEMS: Eros MutatusTo the Red Cross WorkersReflectionsA Prayer at PentecostTo My GrandchildrenA Modern OdysseyEphemeridsBernini’s DavidSocrates’ ExhortationTed Kaczynski: UnabomberTo DanteA Faustian BargainAt the CrossroadA Modern Eden Is the Bible BeltThe Third TemptationPrometheos Revisited


Through Self's Veneer: Poetry by Robert J. Nolan (drawing of two heads in profile facing each other)


At the Crossroad

The argument suddenly lost its importance;
what mattered more was your measured tone
and that certain smile—not quite sardonic—
upturned just slightly at the corners—
and lids lowered in a frank, direct stare,
all saying you knew you were right—
not nearly as arrogant as Oedipus,
not a look that could kill,
but no question—that look said you were making
more room for yourself on the road,
and I’d better move a little aside.
As for myself—both pride and regret—
you’d become, as they say, your own man
(I hope I’d helped to bring that about);
it meant once again you were pulling away.

Quite a difference from that time,
when you were barely three,
and your ever-rebellious Self
pulled your hand from mine at the store counter,
insisting that you’d stay in line with me.
I got my change, turned around, and you were gone.
Furious that you’d failed to keep your word,
but fearful that you’d run into the street
at the crossroad of two busy boulevards,
I rushed outside to see you, eyes lowered, running back:
“Where are you, dad?”
Barely knee high, you got lost in the forest
of long masculine legs and followed
the wrong pair of slacks out the door.
One could almost touch the mute terror
in your plaintive tone,
caught as you were
between Being and Not-being.
Floating between past and future,
you were no longer in the present.
I was your present and I was out of sight.
For one eternal moment you had no future.

What went through that tiny body
when you discovered that the man
you were following wasn’t your father?—
a shot of adrenaline to the heart,
a million nerves tingling,
the strings of your throat
barely able to utter an atonal
“Where are you, dad?”
“Here I am, son.”
Looking up, you grabbed my hand
with just a little extra fervor
so I could feel the fear and relief
mingled now with my own.
You were whole again, back in the known,
and already that moment of suspended being
was receding into the past,
never to disappear entirely,
but ever to resound
on the silent chords of your unconscious,
no less a part of yourself
than the blood flowing in your veins.
For one ineffable moment
you had known the Void.
“Here I am, son.”
Until I spoke you knew that you were not
unless I see you, answer you, touch you.

Now that you’re pulling free again,
but I’m no longer able to pull you back,
one can only hope that long-muted moment
of early loss of innocence
will somehow push its way up
to the surface of your Self,
temper it,
modify this newly won independence
by not allowing it to overflow
into hubris, like all the other egotists
who think they need only themselves—
that perhaps there is indeed enough truth
in the old saying,
“The child is father of the man.”

Go to Top


  Through Self’s Veneer


  About Robert J. Nolan



  © Robert J. Nolan, 2010