Saturday, September 11, 2004


The Babysitter Poisoner

There are no parents here.

I am four and we sit alone on the summer
lawn. She shows me how to splice three-leaf
clovers into four to fool the boys.

She cups the pinkish clover flower, pulls it
apart, sips the sweetness at the center.
She gives me half.

I am hypnotized by her hair, its dark
glinting length, how it moves like a willow.

I almost tell her again what my parents
said about the grass. But I had already learned
that they had difficulty telling danger from
safe, sharp from soft.

Her smile is so huge I feel it take in
the whole lawn, the house, the neighborhood.
It is a warm room I can fall asleep in.

Only when we are back in the kitchen
does she remember the warnings: fertilizers,
chemicals -- phosphorus that shines and burns

She hands me glass after glass of water
still fizzing from the tap.
To flush it out, she says.

I tell her I am swallowing an ocean like
the sixth brother in the Chinese fairytale.
My elbows and ankles start to bloat.

She makes me promise not to tell.

I nod and gulp and something collapses
behind me, books sliding off a shelf.

And then the key at the door. The girl turns
into a black cat and disappears
out the bathroom window.

The front door opens: a man and woman step in.
They are imposters -- a short man, resentment
fish-hooked in the corners of his mouth, and
a frightened, smiling woman, a question mark
curled in her spine.

I do not recognize them, but remember my
instructions. I pretend they are my parents.

Later I will spend Saturdays by the front door, hoping
to see something come through,

something real.

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