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
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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