Eric Scott Sutherland

becoming a man


A tiny village of six tents
bustles near the shore of a wide river.
The mountain is scary up above us,
darker than the woods.  I sit quiet and uneasy,
clutching my favorite rock in my pocket,
hands snug in cotton gloves, but long underwear
and flannel no substitute for momma’s hugs.
You’re a big boy now, Scott.  Old enough to go
camping without your mother there by your side
her voice, a lullaby in my mind. Comforting
stars twinkle like street lights.
When I look up it is like looking down,
the night earth its own sky, speckled
with fires and lights.  Trees taller than steeples
stand dark, silent guardians around the camp.
I think they could be monsters, big black beasts
twisting long arms out to snatch us from our fun.

A burst of laughter, the sizzle and crackle
of fire gathering strength draws me back
to the joy of boys.  I watch my cousin, his friends,
too cool to speak to me, breaking twigs to feed
the flames while the others gather more logs
out where their bodies become the darkness.
I watch a spark dance up and away.  Home
is not far, just down the road, below in the valley
by our church where Preacher Tom warns  
of such wild dangers.  And I know momma
is staring out the kitchen window wondering
if her little boy is learning something more
about becoming a man.

Eric Scott Sutherland is the author of incommunicado (2007) and the forthcoming pendulum (2013). He is the creator and host of the Holler Poets Series, a monthly celebration of literature and music since 2008. Eric makes his home in the heart of Lexington, Kentucky. (Read more of Eric's poems in this issue.)


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