Hymn by John McCarthy

The low song a lost boy sings remembering his mother’s call.

–Brigit Pegeen Kelly


i was a lost boy with a quiet ache, so quiet it was like listening

to a spider weave a web around a cotton ball in early autumn


the temperature dropped the trees breathed please with their long breaths

& my throat grew raw & thick in the scratched open light of morning


where i woke nervous & cold & found my naked feet bare

& the bed covers fallen from the bed with the fan left on


& my mother still gone like good sleep & i’ve never had a conversation

with my mother about our lost days or anything other than how i’m cold


& she can’t have a conversation because her geography is mapped

with a landscape of broken light bulbs & brown leaves & dirty snow


that is so dirty it looks like variegated feathers of a lost boy with lost wings

who remembers his mother singing hallelujah in church & i remember


being at church the whole time wanting to be in the trees hiding

& feeling the trees breathing please against my cold skin—please


& my father sits in a checkered lawn chair even when it’s getting cold

with a small radio listening to the baseball scores recount the losses


of men who have lost their whole lives swinging at a ball

that is sometimes a bird that a boy reaches for as the bird edges


the sky & my father is rubbing his hands on his knees & yelling

& i’m yelling sad in the trees & i miss everything that i have lost


even the song i once heard at church that goes guide me while i run this race

hold my hand while i run this race

i’m your child while i run this race

& i don’t know


how it goes & the air was plain like the color of my forearm

& i’m sitting in a children’s swimming pool that has deflated


to a swarming puddle of mosquitoes & it is scum-thick

& i’m trying to sing i’m your child but i’m a lost boy


who doesn’t know that lost song or how to sing his hallelujah

so he sits scratching the red bites on his legs until they bleed