The hat drops over his ears

bill straight, uncurved,

a slight angle to the side

though not yet the full teen rake;

he’s turning twelve this year

in first year of middle school,

the growing strangeness

of encyclopedic social rules,

protocols ever changing

in the hormonal entry zone

charged like summer lightning.

I stumble along in conversation

with questions boring even to me

until the fog clears with intent:

we will go to the mountain

where our story lives in the stones,

listen to the old voices and look

to the swaying green tablet

with roots down in the mystery;

when he asks for what he wants

something will open in the sky

and he will have what he needs

for the next steps forward.


15 Responses to “Twelve”

  1. T Johansson says:

    Extraordinary piece. It speaks so profoundly of my beloved nephew. He just turned 13, and twists in the wind of what this means, particularly since his father is so broken, he cannot guide his son, except toward the cliff.

    I will forward this poem to my sister, who does her best to be both mother and father, a steady beacon in a stormy sea.

    I’m glad you are a generous poet.

  2. I’m reminded of my own floundering journey as a teen and how walking in the mountains always seemed to bring my spirit back. In the end one always is led back to center by the invisible force of life itself and all ends well. The twists and turns may make it seem as one is lost, yet, always through the struggle one learns and grows and is I think, secretly supported by the eternal Spirit. I appreciate always the depth to which your poetry leads.

  3. gloria rubin says:

    I remember with love those years with my son.

    So much happening, so many questions.
    Then, life had a way of answering them amid the pullings and turnings of a teenage heart!

    He has finally stepped into his size 11 shoe from the premee he was and, at 50, carries the word with grace and respect for his world admist the daily chaoes of today’s world.

    Once again you have captured the heart of your poems and writings..thanks

  4. donna says:

    This salute to your grandson’s moving beyond boyhood is so moving to me. I often think of my grandson’s bright beauty, and whisper my distant love.

  5. Michael Cecil says:

    What a profound and insightful poem. Sounds like a good granddad….

  6. Athena Coleman says:

    I’m so thankful this young person has you in their life. Not having had this guidance when I was young, I think I compensated by being a fierce protector of my soul. It is so important that a mentor provides that protection for a younger person. Maybe then, they can explore more intensely what it means to become fully present in themselves, in their new world. I missed that because there was no one to offer protection and in my immaturity, I didn’t have the skill to be protector and explorer, in the widest sense of that word. I love the sense of newness in both of you as I read this poem. You have a unique way of seeing, you are able to view it in a new light, as if you’re experiencing it for the first time, yet with the wisdom of the sage.

  7. Pi Chay says:

    Before adding my comment, I pause for a moment of remembrance of my father, and many elders in my Montana valley, shadowed by the silent wisdom of forest, and stature of the stone world above high ridges.
    He refused me entry into that realm when I was four; I was left with my grandparents, kicking and screaming for want to be always in his substance. As a family we lived in the high country, and paid our dues in the valley of obligations and community pursuits. When a child is introduced into that realm, the child brings it’s divine inheritance into union with that realm. It stays with one for a lifetime. (A few grains to add to the stones of your creativity.)

  8. Never had a grandfather to teach me these higher things. But I do have grandsons now and am present for them as they draw closer.
    Thanks for your insight and wisdom in this area.

  9. Mark Dellamano says:

    You really capture the moment with marvelous sensitivity. Who doesn’t remember that breathless transition entering the teen years. Reading it brought a smile.

  10. Bill Dare says:

    I trust your journey to the mountain w/ your grandson on his quest will be blessed.

  11. Tom Walsh says:

    I love this Don…. it so well portrays the hard world of teenagedom and of the challenge of relating to that, and the beauty of breaking through to the real within the boy… Thanks for sharing…

  12. Elizabeth Nunn says:

    Oh my…flashbacks to the years I worked with Junior High people. “The Rotten Years” they called them with me doing my best to prove them wrong. Self-esteem building, New Games replacing competition, surprise water balloon fights, creatively tossing the old staid curriculum for new, light, fun times. Great memories. Good to see you carrying the flame in your own way.

  13. Miriam says:


    I always enjoy reading your poems, some times are difficult for me (my bad english…..) but I feel the vibration in my soul when my eyes pass over your words. Thank you for your poems.

  14. Sandy Jensen says:

    Terrific! I didn’t see where this poem was going, and I love that at the volte it took me by the hand and led me straight into the wilderness of the soul. THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about!

  15. Nancy Rose Meeker says:

    How wonderful for a young man to have the safety of that understanding of him.

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