Like the boys I once saw in Homs
flinging themselves from the topmost
turn of a Roman waterwheel—
their arms and legs wildly akimbo,
caterwauling, graceless,
yet full of a coltish grace—
my son casts his eyes to the ceiling,
speculates about the plants, wolfs
his food, restless, ready to reach
the top of this one wheel's turning,
his first outward launching
making him nervous, skittery,
unwilling to answer even the most
direct question.  How the waterwheel
must have creaked and groaned then,
beneath those Syrian boys.
It was amazing, a monument
turned plaything.  Over and over
they climbed and sailed out, shrieking
through the bright air, catching the turns
just so, spilling with the water
but disdaining for the moment
its gravity.  Circumscribed
by today, and less a parent
than a tourist in a dusty land,
I’m amazed to think of those boys
as I watch him finding his foothold
nearing the apogee, asking nothing,
poised above the pool, casting about
for the finest way down.

first published in America , as winner of the 1990 Foley Poetry Prize.