They were calm because it had never happened before,
because they thought it had, it must have, when designed,
a tunnel to fit the child but not the adult. Then how
if a child crawled there and curled and closed her mouth,
how to get the child out? Send another in. Send in
someone small. They were calm because everyone
finds reasons to be calm when there is wind or sun or
this coat at the base of the slide, it must be the child’s,
Come out. It’s fine. Come on, now. Come out.
They were wrong. All of them were wrong. Some thought:
a saw! Some thought: calm down! They were getting
somewhere with their thoughts. Part of the crowd grew
angry with the other part for making a crowd,
so one crawled up into the tube until his chest stopped
like his breath and he saw something wrong:
the sun made blue in the tube. Something about the sun
and black streaks from shoes. The crowd saw the half of him
left out kick then kick wild, so they pulled the other
half out. They sat him up and someone groaned,
someone said Enough, now, come on. Sweetheart, enough.
Come out. Then another crawled inside, left her coat
by the slide, passed the streaks, saw the blue, smelled the plastic
in her mouth that comes from plastic having caught
the sun at noon, the burning soon night-cooled,
a thousand black-streak tallies to mark the cycle of shoes then
wider shoes of older children pressed inside by two
to touch and make the space between them small—
this one heard a sound. Someone’s calling me she thought.
I’m found. So she crawled back. Remembered all.
Moved aside. Another tried. Lost. Another tried.
Copyright © 2019 by Mario Chard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 27, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.