By Miriam Flock
Not the baby but the baby’s clothes defeat me—
the cunning socks, the piles of onesies.
A descant to the washer’s thrum, the strains
of Pagliacci drift in from the study,
dislodging a memory: a stormy weekend
stranded at my cousin’s, the window wells filling
with snow like the heaps of dirty laundry
my aunt was sorting in the other room.
Around us spread the scraps of paper dolls
we’d wangled in the market, peeled now,
and finished like our tangerines.
We’d tired of mimicking Corelli
whose whooping rose above the drone of the dryer
where my aunt and uncle’s shirts embraced.
“There isn’t anything to do,” I whined
until my aunt emerged, a bar of Naptha
gripped in her raw hand. What struck me
was not her slap, nor even the stunned giggle
before my cousin got hers like a portion,
but the tenor’s voice dissolving in sobs,
and the Clorox, smelling as a perfume might,
if she had splashed it against her wrist.
Miriam Flock’s poetry has appeared in Poetry, Salmagundi, Chicago Review, and other publications. She was the 2019 winner of the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award for poems on the Jewish experience.