Sometimes, at the end of a class, my fingertips
are hard with chalk as if frostbitten
high on a peak, and the powder of it
snows my hair. I wonder then if this is a quest
I wish to become old in, if already it has aged me.
Saturday mornings I wake up and stare at the homes
outside my door. They seem to grow more distant
near the failing end of each semester. The first
book I ever read, I never told anyone. I did not like
to hear my cousins spell the winters of Narnia.
For when the fairies bring you gold, it is a secret you must keep.
Twenty years I’ve told this secret—not well,
but I have told—turning gold to pale dust
that stings in the throat, an alchemy of poor returns,
a slow descent to the sorry tombs of explanation.
Previously published in SnowApple.
Paul J. Willis is a professor of English at Westmont College and the current poet laureate of Santa Barbara, California. His most recent collections of poetry are Rosing from the Dead (WordFarm, 2009) and Visiting Home (Pecan Grove Press, 2008). He is also the co-editor of the anthology In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare (University of Iowa Press, 2005).