by Will Stockton
We laugh at the warning sign
near the mouth of Kenei Fjords National Park –
If a grizzly bear attacks you, play dead.
If it starts to eat you, fight back.
The mosquitos here are finger-length filaments,
teeming hot helmets around our heads
as we hike the mile to Exit Glacier.
In the picture we snap they swarm
between us, husband, and you squint
as I lean down to kiss your crown.
At Walmart in Fairbanks we stop
and bottled waters.
While you float in the hot springs,
I sit by the kids’ pool,
listen to the shriek of siblings.
Caden would say these mosquitos are the same
but more different than the ones in South Carolina.
He would pound his head on the posts that mark the glacier’s recess.
Our almost-adopted son,
he would raise his fists to any grizzly.
I don’t like to hike.
Like our son,
I don’t like to travel.
If he were my lover,
I would have left him long ago.
These things are hard to keep
in time –
A picture of you and Caden,
scraping trenches in the dirt.
Our son dressed like Batman,
his cape scraping the glass
of the bear behind him.
I have never seen a bear
outside a zoo
and don’t care to.
But you, so rarely adventurous,
bus into Denali and bike out,
your only encounter other bikers
and a moose come from the trees
like it wants to hail a cab.
At the airport, in the hotel
I cuddle Caden
in his Batman blanket and WWE belt.
He says my arms are hairy,
pretends I bite his head.
In five years we will be uncles and godfathers,
flying back and forth from South Carolina to Ohio,
from our home to our son’s new one.
In a year we fly to Dallas, drive an hour north,
rent a room at the Holiday Inn in Greenville, Texas.
Hunter dashes up and down hallways,
leaps from the bank of the pool into my arms.
Our new son is skeletal where Caden was swollen –
the same but different
reactions of caged bodies
to mood stabilizers and stimulants.
when I toss him
from one end of the pool to the other
while you scroll through email.
At night we read stories
about these scarcely fostered children
and delete them.
I have sworn to stop writing poems
about foster children
and delete them.
In the hot tub,
Hunter pulls at the hair on my arms and chest.
He asks if I am a werewolf,
or if he, too, will grow up
to be an animal.
About Will Stockton
Will Stockton teaches English at Clemson University. With D. Gilson, he is author of Crush (Punctum Books) and Gay Boys Write Straight Porn(Sibling Rivalry). He is also the author of Brimstone (Queer Young Cowboys). His poems have appeared in journals including Adroit, Assaracus, Bloom, and PANK.