The National Catholic Review
Janet McCann
She is edgy and bored in the adult
company. Words go on too long,
words she understands but which do not
connect and have nothing to do with her,
sitting on the edge of the chair
waiting to leave. Why not try this,
one of the strangers says, and hands her
a book. A disused lamp is lit,
and she leans into the circle of its glow.
Her feet move up, comfortable now,
and the people are all gone with the first
sentence: the tall woman with vague
eyes who handed her the book,
the red-faced men who believe they
are both right. And there she is,
completely in the circle of the lamp
with the good Lion who will die
but not forever and the silly boy
who will learn, but not yet, and they say
important things in the same words
the grown-ups use but these are now
her own, her landscape and her language.
Her long dark hair falls over her still face
and she brushes it back like a curtain,
and when they finally say, it’s time
to go, you can finish it later,

it is like coming back through the secret
door into the room where they look for coats
and wraps, and, riding home, eyes shut
as the streetlights flash by, she sees
the lion moving behind heaven’s bright bars.


Janet McCann is a professor of English at Texas A&M University. Her books include The Celestial Possible and Looking for Buddha in the Barbed Wire Garden. Her poems have appeared in Kansas Quarterly, McCall’s, New York Quarterly

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