The woods on either July side of Painter Hill Road
are ripe-green, hunter green, lime-memory green.
It is Connecticut: summer-drunk houses, Yale
men, tolerated celebrities, new mud-murky ponds.
The boy is ushered into a rectangular room.
Wicker furniture. An elephant's foot stool
that will sell at Christies for thousands
when the next century cuts into life's dance.
Tonight the boy, nine, has a babysitter.
She is sixteen... in khaki shorts, blue polo shirt.
Her mother serves coconut cookies... milk.
It is the hour the sun slow-falls on copperheads.
The babysitter opens the elephant's foot stool:
week old copies : The Wall Street Journal.
The boy stares at the newspapers until
the girl laughs, slams the foot's lid down.
The boy's mother and stepfather
are taking Arthur and Marilyn to dinner
to make up for blurted curses when the boy
was caught ruining poolside oak furniture.
Your parents, the babysitter applies lipstick,
are not really your real parents.
Her lips are Sunday school colonial-crimson.
Marilyn and Arthur are so... forgiving.
The babysitter's mother looks in, smiles.
The babysitter's name is Hope or Faith...
or Eleanor. The father fishes in Canada
or Africa. He sells Cadillacs or stocks.
Babysitter Hope wants to swim in the pond.
Have you ever gone swimming so alone
you can see yourself from a far off star?
The boy realizes he is mouth-open chewing.
Babysitter Faith's eyes are green bones.
You aren't scared of water are you?
She has the only flashlight... faint amber
on the water, You're not from important blood.
The boy thinks her voice raindrops
on crystal. He pulls jockey shorts higher,
inches into the pond, onto pebbles, fist-rocks.
The darkness thickens on his lemony fear.
The boy imagines he will walk his springer-mutt
up the abandoned fern-besotted road the next day.
Babysitter Eleanor-Faith-Hope two-hands his head
underwater. How dare you misbehave at Marilyn's?
He shivers stretched on wicker under blankets.
The babysitter is beside him, her arms tight
around his skinny chest. The trees outside are black.
The elephant foot has four neatly trimmed toenails.
When the boy is collected, his mother gushes
as if someone's bleeding has been arrested.
His stepfather smells like a schoolboy's ill-used
chemistry set, A month's savings in concrete shoes!
Patches of memory come thicket-torn to the boy:
the stepfather's Hudson Hornet, Hope's pearly skin,
his mother's East 73rd Street post-divorce apartment.
One shack-trapped August, the boy will be sixty...
in a flash-blast thunderstorm, watching headlights
on a desert road, listening for something certain,
like the clatter-bang of a bad-shocks GMC pick-up
bouncing over a cattle guard far from Connecticut.
Ethereal wedding aisle, foreign stamps to hobby-glue
on a wastebasket, Junior League money-stubble charity
work in Bethlehem or New Haven: Hope will be memory,
false or elaborate... her arms around his drowning.