A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
You stood, small and mute,
on the stoop where she’d left you
with a tiny, plastic suitcase,
like a bad joke, beside you.
She might have said, Be a good girl,
you stood so solemnly still,
the block a stubborn witness,
the sidewalk, in all directions, blank as sky,
your face also blank, but watching intently.
And with what care had she put you there:
newly polished shoes, white tights,
and just-washed, ironed dress,
your smartly braided hair in blue barrettes.
In the half-filled suitcase I found no note;
only Johnson’s Baby Oil, three diaper squares,
one pair of purple pants, two tee-shirt tops,
all the clothes you owned, perhaps.
I picked you up, a sadness I thought was hers
still on you in the smell of soap,
and took you with me to the phone.
Then we waited on the bottom steps
in the gray-walled hall,
your thin, obedient arm around my neck,
my cheek against your head,
until the policeman came.
He reached down for you,
you reached up, so easy this shift
into the great, blue sea of his arms,
and as he turned to go, your head
was bobbing at his shoulder—
like a bottle corked and set adrift
on the ocean, such messages inside you,
bound on the current wherever the current goes.
Author’s note: A child was left on my doorstep when I was a graduate student.
Copyright 1996 Sandy Solomon. First published in Pears, Lake, Sun by University of Pittsburgh Press. Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.