Middle Child, #137

In the early morning
hours my mother, spent
from a long day, would stand
over me with the blush
of a veteran parent,
stare with an awareness
of these moments, look down
into my wide open
eyes and puzzle over
why her newborn baby,
this gift just returned home
from the hospital, lay
quiet, not crying, still
as a young horizon.

She fretted and doted
over her only boy,
child not appealing
for milk or an empty
diaper, and not asleep.
She assumed, by raising
my sister, that all kids
were constantly needy,
incessantly moving
or eating or cooing
out an attempt at new
words, and if not, sleeping.

She knew that would be her
last hope to catch a nap,
the times we were sleeping,
and felt like the momma
bird, who, in her return
to the nest discovers
all the hatched eggs pecking
at each other and wet,
singing, their chatty maws
turned up and propped, waiting
for regurgitation
of knowledge and of worms,
wanted to feed the chicks
equally when she came
back from her brief hunting.

My sister chewed through books,
nibbling well into
the night, alight only
by a twenty watt bulb.
When there was nothing left
to read, she’d scream all night.
In the morning she’d pull
all the socks, shirts and pants
from her pint size dresser
to create an outfit.
All day I would lie there
looking up at the world,
at a mobile unplugged,
stagnant constellation,
looking into my mom’s
face, an infant Buddhist,
Zen babe, needing nothing.

When my younger sister
was born, my mother’d run
around the house, harried
and disheveled, trying
to keep up with a new
child screaming a pitch
where dog-spies would submit
to their captors demands,
a four year old begging
to be allowed to cook,
to take apart all things,
to get to go to school,
and in the eye of this,
I came to sit, watching
intent at the TV
or tugging at a piece
of cardboard or plastic,
asking little. Even
a pacifier seemed
unneeded. To this day
my middle finger placed
tenderly on my tongue
is all I need to calm.

On and on we had grown,
into a family, Dad at work,
mother at home, and soon
her too working. Older
sister piling up A’s
looking always to jump
forward, move up, to get
passed on to the next grade,
to get her degree, pack
up all things, every stitch
in her dresser, get on.
And a younger sister,
used to having her cries
answered, her whimpers quelled,
her dreams fulfilled. Baby
grown up to be spoiled,
rich and picky. Content
when the world just says yes.

Then, there lies me, quiet
like a crow in the nook
of the gymnasium,
laid back, mouse in the grass
of our front lawn staring
up at the sky, floating
like a frog in the deep
end of the pool, hanging
from a branch halfway up
an oak tree. To this day,
hand me a cardboard box
or a puzzle, a pen
and paper, anything
to doodle or chew on.

When my wife arrives home
from a long day at work
she wants to do something,
to go out, try something
different, to not be cooped
up in these same four walls.
Either way. Whatever.
We can go out or just
sit in this room, shuttle
off to a movie, sit
in that room, walk the mall
surrounded by all things
by all our distractions.

I’m content to be stuck
listening to voices,
need nothing but their song,
and someone watching me.
Here, in the wee hours
of the morning, I rest,
my eyes wide and staring
at the ceiling, lights out
and the shadows playing
with ways I see the world,
through unfocused lenses.



A day is not done, until it's filled with words.

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