The Boiler

Cameron Alexander Lawrence


No one ever told me to be a man

            is to become a plum tree in the city, hushing himself
            above the smoke and horns. I had to discover on my own

            the meaning of childhood, years when I was first
            a collection of minerals blown in on a storm,

deposited, a microscope’s dazzling. I grew

            into a shoot within the sounds of traffic, and my mother hailed me
            as a miracle, passing in her robe on the way to the television.

            Side-eyed, she watched me, blown back and bent toward
            a history, a language, not even my grandparents spoke anymore.

As a boy, I looked up to my father,
            on whose white under wings I counted each feather,
            him always studying me from a tree with a mouse in his beak.

            I was not what my parents believed, nothing resembling
            the orchards they imagined, no magic in my body except

the way my skin held the rain. All these years,

            I have been filled with a deepening dream of sugar
            descended from the sun. I don’t resent anyone, don’t

            fault them for not knowing how to tell a young boy
            the way to become what he will be,

but there’s still a part of me waiting for someone to come along

            and sit here in the late hours of this purpling world,
            to tell me how I might know the moment

            my darkness has grown too heavy for me, the moment
            I can let the abundance of this fruit fall away.

Cameron Alexander Lawrence’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in West Branch, The Florida Review, Image, TYPO, Forklift Ohio, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, The Shallow Ends, Whiskey Island, Ruminate, and elsewhere. He lives in Decatur, GA, with his wife and four children.