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Late Tension

Today’s poem is “Late Tension” by Audrey Bohanan. Her latest book is Any Keep or Contour (2019) and her poems have recently appeared in Birmingham Poetry Review, The Hopkins Review, and Sewanee Theological Review.  She lives in South Berwick, Maine.
She writes, “The process begins with a state of being, or mood, or frame of mind.  In 'Late Tension', the scene in the laundromat was a recent occurrence, which probably collided with other thoughts about what shapes a self and when that process begins.  I was struck by how equally universal and individualistic this child’s emotional response to the situation was.  The poem attached itself to a free verse form, but one that runs closely over a harmonic base of rhythm and sound, and over a line structure that responds to the many constraints meant to give a line balance and integrity.  This contrast is intended to carry both my sense of the dual nature of his response and my sense of what had to be his confusion at the unfathomable and contradictory rules of the adult world brought up against his own sense of self and the reliable order that exists within him.”  

Late Tension
by Audrey Bohanan

Here, in an early cell-division stage
of human endeavoring, in a Coin Mat laundry,
a small boy stands unauthorized in a folding chair,
eager to help fold clothes.  In the splintering-off
of his making, in the marrow of him,
he well may grasp that all is preparation,
that some tomorrow will come the schoolyard bully
to get the drop on him, that any future
is a twisted strand of doubt, any barbaric enough
might skin him away in the stirrup-tangle
of lock-step holding pattern if his horse
is rangy and throws him through it.
That it is in him, in the incremental
lesson plan, for the ever-present
he has leaned forward, and in a moment
comes the critical reprimand, with which he
now hides his face in his forearms
to sink himself slowly into a shame of tears
he must contain.  All the salt runs off
while he is up to his elbows and easily lost
inside the smallness of himself.  And some
may be quieted with the stale of anodyne
and cheese from the choices vended, and some
can only hide in the darkness of their vulnerability 
like the daytime stars in the depths
of childhood’s well, of all the given marvels
they know themselves to be full of.

"Late Tension," copyright© 2019 by Audrey Bohanan. Reprinted from Any Keep or Contour (Waywiser Press, 2019) by permission of Audrey Bohanan.