The ones we never speak of--
removed by decree,
taken too soon, crossed over.
They slip red mittens in our hands,
smell of warm wet wool,
are always out of sight.
We glimpse them on escalators,
over the shoulders of dark-haired women;
they return to us in dreams.
We hold them, as they evanesce;
we never speak their names.
How many children do you have?
Two, we answer, thinking three,
or three, thinking four;
they are always with us.
The lost children come to us
at night and whisper
in the shells of our ears.
They are waving goodbye
they are separated from us
they are lost in shopping malls
with unspeakable pools,
they disappear on beaches,
they shine at night in the stars.
Previously published in The Poetry Review, 1984;
In the chapbook, The Lost Children, The Heyeck Press;
Online at poetrymagazine.com, 2000