Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Boundary Man

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You are sixteen, male.
Tufts of new dark hair
announce themselves daily.
Sometimes I can't help myself.
I reach out to touch your face.

No touching, you warn
in your deepest tenor.
You are half-serious, half-teasing,
I pull back my hand,
awed by your authority.
My son, the boundary man.

I whine a little,
preparing to negotiate.
How about a little hug?

Mother, no. I'm untouchable.
You're goofy and dead serious
at the same time.
You know that you're right.

It's no secret to either of us
that I want to cuddle you again
and it's too late.

I remember when the top of your head
felt like silk,
and I couldn't stop kissing it.
I remember how pink and smooth
your cheeks were, warm
no matter what the weather.
I told you every day
You have the softest skin in the world.

And when you were four or five,
I would hold you in my arms,
you facing backwards and
looking over my shoulder.
Sometimes you'd catch your father's eye
and stick out your tongue
and he'd laugh, both of you
knowing exactly what you didn't need to say:
Ha-ha. I've got her now.

It was fine with me to be wanted like that,
fought over as you enacted this age-old battle,
I was never in a rush to let you go.

And now, I can't help staring
at your face as it fills,
day by day, with those hairs
from the black lagoon.

I ask you too many times
if you are going to shave
or let it come in,
not caring at all
which choice you make.

You allow this conversation with me
about the destiny of your first beard hairs,
your voice low and gentle,
letting me back in for a moment
as you contemplate your manhood.


Barbara Kennard is mother of two semi-grown children, a daughter, 24, and a son, 21. She wrote “Boundary Man” when her son was 16. Barbara works as a child and adult psychotherapist; she is also a program developer for “The Girl Project,” a division of a New Jersey women’s resource center. She runs the popular program “Girls Who Write,” which features writing workshops, a literary magazine, and writing groups for girls ages 8 to 13.


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