The Faces of Children
Meeting old friends after a long time, we see
with surprise how they have changed, and must imagine,
despite the mirror’s lies, that change is upon us, too.
Once, in our twenties, we thought we would never die.
Now, as one thoughtlessly shuffles a deck of cards,
we have run through half our lives.
The afternoon has vanished, the evening changing
us into four shadows mildly talking on a porch.
And as we talk, we listen to the children play
the games that we played once. In joy and terror,
they cry out in surprise as the seeker finds the one in hiding,
or, in fairytale tableau, each one is tapped and turned
to stone. The lawn is full of breathing statues who wait
to be changed back again, and we can do nothing but stand
to one side of our children’s games, our children’s lives.
We are the conjurors who take away all pain,
and we are the ones who cannot take away the pain at all.
They do not ask, as lately we have asked ourselves
Who was I then? And what must I become?
Like newly minted coins, their faces catch what light
there is. They are so sure of us, more sure
than we are of ourselves. Our children: who gently
push us toward the end of our own lives. The future
beckons brightly. They trust us to lead them there.