On Childhood


My daughter has slid down in the bath

so that just the island of her face
breaks the surface—

and when she holds in her breath
her body suspends
touching nothing

I say can you hear me
and she nods from her distance

I say are you ready to come out—
Not yet



Inside this larger world
the world of children

is one of such rapidly
shifting allegiances—

now: the adorable predators
now: the adorable prey



My childhood became in the end
not a coherent narrative

or even really
a series of flashing images

but simply a feeling—
as though all that time

is a bolt of material
sunk in a basin of dye



Childhood is not

as I had thought
the thicket of light back at the entrance

but the wind still blowing
invisibly toward me

through it



My children: an encompassing wall
I cannot see over—

such a cramped vantage—

and if that wall collapsed
it would reach out beyond itself

to cover everything



In a small train station
in a foreign country

I sat in a molded plastic chair
watching my son

expand his loops
of exploration—

he found a locked door
halfway up the narrow hall

and such was his ignorance

of my place in the world
that he came back

and asked for my keys





picture of featured poet, Wayne Miller
Author photo by Chris Kannen

Wayne Miller is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Post-, which won the UNT Rilke Prize and the Colorado Book Award for Poetry, and We the Jury, which is forthcoming in 2021. His 2015 co-translation of Moikom Zeqo’s Zodiac was shortlisted for the PEN Center USA Award in Translation. He teaches at the University of Colorado Denver and edits Copper Nickel

Miller last published with TLR in 2017, TLR: Uncle



read next: Wayne Miller “On Aesthetics


“On Childhood” appeared in TLR: Contents May Shift (Summer, 2020)