Your sisters learned to tap my arm and wait for me to look up from my book,
readjust to the idea of my children as I emerge from the world of the page.
You too would have learned, or maybe not.
Maybe you’d shout: Make it now, Mom! I’m hungry now.
I would listen to you, drop the book, mid-chapter,
mid-page, and butter the bread for grilled cheese.
I’d make sandwiches for your sisters too
and never need to scrape away
the charcoal of my inattention.
Years ago, Daddy stood your sister against the fence and
whipped Wiffle balls. Doesn’t hurt, he told her,
as they slapped her arms and thighs and back. She stopped flinching.
Eyes wide, she knocked ball after ball over his head and into the bushes
At thirteen, a fast-pitched softball slams her calf. She takes her base,
shrugs off the red to purple bruise I can already see from the stands.
Imagine how tough he could make you, his boy.
I assign you impatience, but still you wait.
Promised a chance when your cousins arrived,
now you have six, all blond as you would be,
my towhead boy with your sisters’ freckles.
I grew too used to sleep and the un-encumbrance of school-aged children.
No more diaper bag to highlight my failings:
the missing jar of puréed peas, clean onesie
or that last needed diaper. Your sisters pack their own bags,
and their lunches too. Side by side at the counter,
complaining but with busy hands,
they spread peanut butter, shove cheese curls into filmy Ziploc bags,
if I’ve remembered to buy either. If not,
then handfuls of cereal wadded in tin.
There was a time when I let down my guard, my guarantee.
In my twenties, I played rhythm roulette. I tempted fate.
Undodged bullets found their marks,
twice made babies, those happy mistakes. But not now.
I take no chances, there are no oops.
I’ve unplanned, tell friends that ship has sailed,
Erected a barbed wire blockade, a ninety-nine percent for-sure.
I know I don’t want you.
See the new puppy play, sweet boy. He rolls on the floor, begs with cocoa
His baby paws scratch at my legs, until he gives up and waits at the door
For someone else to let him out.