by Jake Reynolds

In response.

1. Policy

They watched him play alone
with teddies in a queue
for so long
that sometimes when drunk
they made love to be illegal, but

rumour has it the lady from
the tea-shop had her second
needled out
in the dark places between
the legal buildings.

At night they faced the darkness
in one another and spoke it
as a language
in which names they liked
and did not like held them down.

2. News

It comes from the internet these days,
and it is the most real the internet
has been to them
except for when forum experts
diagnosed their little boy.

Potential is a map of an island
gradually expanding, water
a ferrying creature bobbing
at the shores. So they try.

They will not stop until they get
something real, because she has
forgotten how
it feels to carry and care in that way,
let alone fathom the tiptoe curiosity

of her first standing to reach her,
ringing his arms in tortoise formation
around the globe
of life in her, stretched and set
to burst, the eclipse of love.

It’s a double nature, their son thinks
in his supercomputer brain,
the seeing this,
the me within and without,
the twisted carousel.

Mummy’s a machine. I am a cog.
Nothing but the product of her
They read his worries stored
in a shoebox beneath his bed.

So they all talk. Call it a meeting
of minds with the tiny unseen
as adjudicator
or referee, that absent presence,
ticking into life like a watch, or bomb.

3. Rivalry

He tells his baby sister she is
an ugly piece of work, and her reply
is a puddle
of milk on her father’s bottle green
sweater. His mother reaches out

and their fingers intertwine.
She swings him to her breasts
like a monkey
on a vine. Your little sister. Did you
say anything to her yet?

He shakes his head. She’s more scared
of you than you are of her, you know.
I’m not scared,
he scoffs. His father ducks away
to cry at that. She smells of life

and hospitals, sisters of that same curse.
Within an hour he is holding the baby,
tracing her tufts
of hair with his lips. Then the next bed
rolls past, carrying in it an elderly woman

who is dying. She gives them
a special look, a knowing, and some
last, lost words
dandelion into the maternity ward
and paddle in her shallow breaths.

One thought on “FAMILY PLANNING

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