Through a looking-glass

I recently came across some of my old poems, and this one was among them. In revisiting it, what’s so interesting to me is that I wrote this half my life ago, at the shiny penny age of 20, long before becoming a mother or even thinking about becoming one. Among my thoughts as I revised it just now: How did I know? And also: How little did I know!


He sits quietly,
curl-riddled head tipped back,
tiny red sockfeet
making a V at sofa cushion’s edge
I hope
while I shower,
ironing my skin with
a cake of green soap
shaped like a Stegosaurus
with tail serrated
and honeycombed hide.

Turned toward the television,
his eyes are sand-dollar round,

hair ringleted, coiled
like pulled springs.
He doesn’t even notice I’m gone
or blink an eye when Alice suddenly
shrinks like a wool sock,
having drunk from a bottle
ambiguously labeled.

Water slaloms down my shoulders,
drowning out the caterpillar’s smoke rings
sounding long syllables
in puffs like lavender eyeshadow,
hot droplets drowning the residue
of days, cleansing only what
we know to wash away.

How much can happen in seven minutes,
the time it takes to lathe a razor
over legs, to knead the soap
from my squinting eyes,
to paint a rosebush red?
I am guilty, every second
I am gone I am guilty,
putting faith in what diagram
of stars I cannot say.

The curtain rings clink
together like loose change.
Alice cries into her pinafore,
thinking she is lost forever,
but he answers when I call his name.
Another day, I am clean
and my child is still alive.

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