High in his small clean bedroom
he lived a fantasy tale
of magic aspiration—
a refuge from the real,

which he’d been taught to fear
as a thing one mustn’t trust
and thus had little purchase on
(he’d learn this to his cost).

Trained by books and solitude
to see himself as the all
he’d caught a frightened glimpse or two
of a harshly other world

that threatened and surrounded. How
could he know its wrongs and rights?
Safer, he thought, to linger on
within the enchanted gates

than venture, say, those three flights down
to the closed-off basement realm
of kitchen smells and servant talk:
it never felt like home . . .

And so he’d watch and wonder
until his mother returned
from shopping, fresh and loving,
not knowing how he’d yearned.

—Frederick Morgan

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 19 Number 6, on page 31
Copyright © 2017 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com
newcriterion.com/issues/2001/2/the-refuge