Childhood: A Portrait

posted Jan 9, 2006

A quiet child in a still room. Each undusted surface as mysterious
as a deep sea creature. Slow time and nothing
to measure it—no small sounds, even her breathing muted.
How to explain this curious moment? Vision
is there, hearing, smell, taste, touch. But all
is removed, distant. Outside the trees
are in full leaf. The sun pulls matter to itself and breathes.
In this moment there must
be secret doors to other worlds. There must
be others. She feels the tiniest flecks fall
against her face and rest there, the pump
of her heart like a furnace she cannot help but stoke.
She does not move. The world
does not move around her. Downstairs everyone
is frozen, like in that children’s game
where you go wild for a minute, then stop
just where you are.

Do not ask
what she is waiting for, what purpose the white, deep quiet.
You know yourself
what wounds is the same
for all of us.

Katherine Riegel’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including Crazyhorse, Gettysburg Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and West Branch. She lives in Oswego, New York. Her rather elementary web site can be viewed at