The Year of the Child

By Robert Hayden for his grandson

And you have come,

Michael Ahman, to share

your life with us.

We have given you

an archangel’s name–

and a great poet’s;

we honor too

Abyssinian Ahman,

hero of peace.

May these names

be talismans;

may they protect

you, as we cannot, in a world that is

no place for a child–

that had no shelter

for the children in Guyana

slain by hands

they trusted; no succor

for the Biafran

child with swollen belly

and empty begging-bowl;

no refuge for the child

of the Warsaw ghetto.

What we yearned

but were powerless to do

for them, oh we

will dare, Michael, for you,

knowing our need

of unearned increments

of grace.

I look into your brilliant eyes, whose gaze

renews, transforms

each common thing, and hope

that inner vision

will intensify

their seeing.  I am

content meanwhile to have

you glance at me

sometimes, as though, if you

could talk, you’d let

us in on a subtle joke.

May Huck and Jim

attend you.  May you walk

with beauty before you,

beauty behind you, all around you, and

The Most Great Beauty keep

you His concern.


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