Frontier

By Christine Poreba

My son reaches for the light, wanting
to press the hot metal against his tongue.
I move us over to the shelves, where
he tears books down and tosses them
like wild branches needing to be cleared.

Soon, he clatters on hands and knees,
bellowing go go go, towards the gate
that closes just as he approaches;
then he bends his head and wails.

He’s an explorer with an endless want
and I’m the one who has to say you can’t.

I’m the one who stood helpless
when the neighbor’s dog jumped his fence
under my watch, blazed off until he was lost
and I didn’t know if the ground I covered
was closer or farther away.

It was, I’d read, the two-hundredth birthday
of the man who invented barbed wire—
Glidden parsing up the wild homesteads,
making boxes for the dogs who must have
howled in the new maze.

Now our dog, those dogs’ descendant,
follows balls in his fence, runs from one
corner to the other, like an airplane
on its route across the sky.

My husband, before he flies home tonight
as I fall asleep, types into his phone:
door / closing / now / I / love / you.

The space between the words is
the distance between two points,
where something starts or ends.

After I’ve left my son at school, his teachers
take him to the window to distract him
from my absence by looking at what’s just
beyond, which he doesn’t realize is the same
as where he just was

because where we are is always just beyond
where we were,

because once all of us saw land ahead
and thought only—and without words—go.
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Christine Poreba‘s poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Subtropics, The Southern Review, and The Sun Magazine. Her first book, Rough Knowledge, won the 2014 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and is now out from Anhinga Press. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida with her husband, John, and their son, Lewis.