I’m thinking about the night
we should’ve died
again: fifteen, in the backseat
of an egg-shaped car
as those feral boys
started yelling balls out
to the driver, who gripped
the wheel and locked
his elbows and drove faster
and faster until it felt
like there was nothing between us
and the end
but the soft shoulder
of the road, the constellations
of mosquitos over the ditch,
the night reflected
in the still water there, murky
then less, just flesh
on metal, metal on air,
then less, until it felt like
we could die
of speed alone, evaporate,
poof, sucked back into the holes
our insignificant histories
had made in the earth
so that no one would ever
find a trace of us, not a spot
of blood or a point of impact,
no dust or smoke
or skid marks. Maybe then
we’d never have existed
at all. Oh, how many
times did I take my dumb life
in my hands and shove it
down deep between
my thighs so no one would
see it. And how many times
did I give it away, push it
over, baring everything,
daring the night to take it
away. Hard to tell
how many real deaths
we escaped to make it
to tonight, talking
on the phone while I sit
on the porch with the baby
asleep in my arms
watching the dog chase the cat
switch, so that now the cat’s
chasing the dog and oh
he’s gaining on her.
All the things that could happen
to the baby came to me last night
as I was falling asleep. Children
of mine, they climbed into bed, sweaty
and whimpering in colorful pajamas,
with their stories, which were sad,
and their fears, which were crystalline.
Each time another arrived
I’d think OK, that’s got to be it.
But then another would push through
with her forehead or elbow, her
hot breath saying Mama, saying
Mama please. Soon there were so many
I couldn’t see any one of them,
I couldn’t hear their distinct voices,
and they jumped on the bed,
on my chest, on my face, until it was
all black with a white flash
and a thick, electric ringing in the ears.
And now, here’s the morning.
Here’s the tree flickering
behind the shade, dumb tree
with its one arm raised to the sky.
Here’s the silent tipping into another day.
And now, finally, finally, the baby, blowing
her famous raspberries down the dark
static hallway of the baby monitor. And now
she begins to whimper. And now she cries out.
And here I go to her, thank God.
Here I go to help her little life.