by Cady Burkhart

Sandra Cisneros wrote that whatever age we are
we carry all the other ages within us
like a Russian doll. I’m 41 now outside
at a park table where an intermittent breeze
pulls me in and out of my thinking and my writing
but inside I’m also 6
when I drafted what I thought
was the definitive poem about spring
and sent it to Cricket magazine
and got published inside
I’m also 12 when I first heard the words
of Harper Lee through the words of Scout
through the voice of my mother
as she read aloud the novel
as I sat cross-legged on teal shag carpet
drinking a Coke inside
I’m 18 when I sat in that lecture hall with
100 other students and
professor with an British accent
who read Chaucer in Middle English
which sounded like a foreign language
but felt like home all at once and I knew that inside
poetry we are all immigrants
suspended in the space between here and there and
I’m also 22 when I moved to New Jersey
alone for grad school and learned more
from my roommate
than I did from my research.
I’m 30 when I found religion again
and realized that God wasn’t in a church
but in the choices we make everyday
and found a reason to change inside
I’m also 36 when an acquaintance changed my life
with a simple question spun from chaperone boredom
at the edge of a school prom dance floor
Cady, do you want kids?
And inside I’m still turning 40 singing karaoke
tunes from my youth that are still inside me too
as my two-year old spins circles outside
on a backyard dance floor
all his own spinning circles inside too
where he’s still the swaddled baby boy attached to my breast
and where he’ll always be one and two and three and
waiting to see.