The Children’s Crusade

Once I spent a winter term in Boston
…………on an internship in children’s advocacy.
…………The lawyers there didn’t know what to do with me,
with my long hair and my gauche manners on the phone,

so I decorated my cubicle with mottoes:
…………GIVE A MAN A FISH… TEACH A MAN TO FISH
…………and trudged out through the cold and slush
to bird-dog the staff in their righteousness.

I was living with a prep-school cohort
…………at a settlement house in the South End,
…………slumming it. I was another dumb blond,
and one night my friends cued up Deep Throat.

But I was in love for the first time.
…………The tongue-in-cheek (and in each other’s laps)—
…………Did they think I meant country matters, perhaps?
There were catcalls when I left the room.

Sometimes I went to the library for the silence.
…………I was white and new as the Philip Johnson wing.
…………I sat at a table and waited for spring,
when my love gave me the heave-ho at a dance,

her face in the strobe remote as the moon.
…………Outside there was busing and Louise Day Hicks,
…………there was meltwater from rusting girders and falling bricks,
and naked legs in the Combat Zone’s neon.

I wrote things down without knowing why.
…………Once I found a note (folded and scented too)
…………at my place that said I have been watching you.
Your sweetness and your manliness inflame me.

I would like to take you in my mouth.
…………If you would like this, meet me… I read
…………no further that day, for I fled
with my few books through the arch inscribed with

FREE TO ALL as if in danger (I was not,
…………except from my own pieties).
…………It took me years to get to that place
of having words say what I meant,

honestly and without equivocating.
…………The lawyers gave me lunch for a sendoff,
…………their gratitude mingled with relief.
I had no idea of what we were celebrating.

Karl Kirchwey

Karl Kirchwey

Karl Kirchwey is the author of seven books of poems, most recently Stumbling Blocks: Roman Poems (2017). He teaches poetry in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Boston University, where he also serves as Associate Dean of Faculty for the Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Karl Kirchwey

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Author: Karl Kirchwey

Karl Kirchwey is the author of seven books of poems, most recently Stumbling Blocks: Roman Poems (2017). He teaches poetry in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Boston University, where he also serves as Associate Dean of Faculty for the Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences.