Poetry: Child’s Room in Autumn

November 22, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT

ROBERT PINSKY: Here, for this season of school and football–and also of terror–is Rosanna Warren’s poem, “Child’s Room in Autumn:”

The scene is about order, the maple tree 
a conflagration trapped in the rectangle 
of window, the Newton High football 
players outside an explosion surging free

of the grip of game and field. 
And the sky is gray cotton 
batting pressing down 
over us, wadded by skilled

hands between branches and rooflines. 
October wants to ignite. 
In Benjamin’s room, a set 
of toy soldiers shines

along the shelf, jumble 
of prancing eras 
armed with bazookas, crossbows, spears. 
Tacked to the wall,

a Map of Planet 
Earth’s Disaster Areas shows 
garlands of volcanoes 
spilling cherries out

to sea, buttercups for 
earthquakes, a lime-green swarm 
of bees the tornado alarm: 
toy translations of war

sprinkled across the map 
as though catastrophe were a board game 
you could win. The room 
holds peace in a trap

of representations. Ben’s at school, 
the house clenches its calm, 
the Times softly delivers its daily harm 
in grisaille blur, but geometrical: 

pyramid-hunched, a mother grieves 
over small bodies arranged in a row; 
elsewhere, a darkhaired boy 
stands alone as the last jeep leaves 

under a charred, rectangular swatch of sky. 
The scenes are about 
suffering, how it lurches out 
of any picture, giving the lie

to pity, to composition. 
I sweep Benjy’s room, 
waiting for him to come 
home, happy with stories: he’ll run

out into the autumn field 
where, now, 
cheers erupt, helmets are tossed high, 
and leaves swim down in wild

shoals, gold pennants, streamers 
loosened to glorify 
the field, the ephemeral victors, 
leaving the boughs to the sky.