“Original Sin” by Sharon Rauenzahn
My son, my first-born, two years old,
Stands on the high walkway of a playground contraption,
Grips the railing, shouts at the kid he sees
Far across the grass, walking with his grandma to
Starbucks or the grocery store, innocent of ill-intent.
“No, boy!” Ian shouts. “No, boy! It’s Mine!”
So I climb, up the ladder, under the low roof,
Out on the walkway, and I take his hand.
“Ian,” I say. “It’s not yours. This is a park.
What you should say instead is,
‘Do you want to play?’”
And because he is a good boy,
In spite of original sin,
He nods, and smiles.
And the next time, when some boy enters the territory,
He remembers, and asks.
They play, or don’t play.
It’s a public park.
But now I wonder.
Long ago, when some young ruler-to-be,
Louis the XIVth, perhaps, or Donald Trump,
Looked out over his public square, shouted
“No, boy! It’s mine!”
Did a mother take his hand, too,
Saying “Yes, all this is yours.”
And did he nod, and smile up at her
With bright, sharp teeth?
And I imagine some other dynast,
Queen Elizabeth, say, or George H. Bush.
What did their mothers say?
Or Adam, even, king for a day in his own Eden.
Who heard a father’s voice, saying:
“Yes, all this is yours, serve it well.
I will hold you to account for it all.”
We have always known what a good parent says.
Even then, on that first day,
In that first of public parks.