III. IF BROKEN, PLEASE RETURN

When a young boy tells you
he wants to touch the sky
tell him he already is.
When he is confused
tell him someone is
always looking up to him.
When that confuses him more
tell him a joke.

When his innocence reflects on the lake
and he watches it bend
then break over waves,
when he wades out into the water
remind him he doesn’t know
how to swim.

When he asks you to teach him,
tell him later.
When he cries
remind him he doesn’t know
how to swim.

When you hear him in the bathroom
with the shower on
but you know he showered this morning
and it’s the middle of the day,
when he comes out with red eyes but dry hair
do not confront him.
He’d be embarrassed to know
he can’t keep a secret.

When he slumps at the dinner table
grab him by both arms
knee in spine
straighten him out
he’ll go Pinocchio-limp
but he will learn
if the pain is real
the boy is, too.

Soon
he will turn into the moon
rigid and barren
but more eclipsed.

One day
there will be a flickering
of a light
when you look at him.

Over time it will fade.
When he looks at the lake
there will be a reflection
but not a familiar one.
And he’ll just stare at it.
He won’t wade out.
He knows he can’t swim.
He hasn’t forgotten.

– Lino Anunciacion