The Poet at Seven

MAY 2012: POETRY

by Brett Foster

The tweeny daughter torments
the younger brother, who stands
impassively, elbows on the table.
He fiddles with a just cut apple
and tugs at his pants. Bored, madly
involved. Fidgeting, in a word.

“Are you going to the movies?”
she says. “Then why are you
picking your seat?” Pause.
Kitchen laughter (we’re all guilty)
sears and embarrasses as it will
at that age. Yet he readily replies:

Seeds, Avery, I’m picking seeds.”
And so I see he is! And suddenly
the room spins as if he’s conjured
the scene as most heartening lesson,
little magus unconscious of his art.
Applause fills the imagination.

His answer is non-sequitur and yet
eerily resourceful—unknowing
punning that lifts the funniness
toward the tongue’s incantatory power.
Words have earned him leverage,
resemblance like a rope bridge.

His apple halves will taste better
for his having said it, you know
what I mean? Little dynamo,
beaming now, feeling fine and quickwitted:
he spits a responsive sign
into the binding material world.

Brett Foster’s first book of poetry, The Garbage Eater, was published in 2011 and his forthcoming Fall Run Road recently won Finishing Line Press’s chapbook award. He teaches Renaissance literature and creative writing at Wheaton College. “The Poet at Seven” is both personal (in the domain of family memory, and wish) and also takes its modest place in a “poem about the young poet” literary tradition, which includes, among others, Arthur Rimbaud and Donald Justice.