by Megan J. Arlett

The baby cries
so I put him in the cupboard like a biology experiment,
take meticulous notes

about sunlight and soil. He babbles
in the dark. I scribble sounds
on a notepad: looping, doughy drawings, words

not yet words. I call him sweetpea
through the door because the literature says
this is how to raise a gentle son.

Little lamb in his dark casket.
Little muffled timebomb.
Tears and rain, tears and rain.

The smallest dog in the house barks at the bathtub
all month long. I too
have watched a possum family

trundle out from the crawl space across the lawn.
I know they live in the vacancy
beneath my naked, bathing body.

What does a mother possum call her babies?
Should I clasp mine
in my mouth

to keep his feet from puddles,
his mind safe from filth.
Or carry him

through the world on my back
one day a woman like me—

her dress catching on the wind, arms pregnant
with a paper bag filled to the lip
by oranges—

won’t have to call him
dog, hoping he’ll never howl at her
down the street.

This poem was originally published in Passages North.

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