Alchemy

Call it science: lead is just a little heavier inside
the body of a child. Butterflies in her stomach
with cast iron wings. A weight in his chest
though his mother is out of the hospital now
and his father is one of the few with a job.
Strange lump in his throat that he can’t understand;
he is happy. She’s happy too. She’s dizzy
and thinks the pink cloud in her brain
must be love. She’s so thirsty.
Her mother makes lemonade, iced tea,
ice cubes that melt in her mouth.
Back to the boy: his father has
finally bought him his first football
Jersey. He won’t take it off, even though
it’s two sizes too big. He’s skinny.
He hasn’t been hungry all winter.
It’s somebody’s birthday. The boy
and the girl come together to celebrate
white cake and frosting and candles.
The children turn down the lights.
The children turn up the music.
The children put on their hand-me-down shoes
and dance, dance, dance till they can’t tell
the ache in their legs from the ache in their stomachs.
The children sing ballads of dead Chevys,
rusted red hearts, clumsy kisses and blues.
They don’t know what any of this means but
they know they may never taste it. They don’t know
what they want but they want it desperately now.
Even louder, they turn up the base; they are crazy.
Their bodies are tired but their hearts will not stop.
What’s the matter with you? Parents like ghosts
in the doorway protest one more time. The children
cannot hear their parents tonight. Their ears are ringing.
Their hearts are singing and the children turn
and turn from lead into gold. Call it science:
the earth gets a little bit heavier each time
a child flies away.