Scoundrel Time

The Truly Screaming Baby

Thank God says the woman in 13E
we’re not back there she means
back there with the mom
with the truly screaming baby
and the two toddlers to boot (by God she’d never
boot these two) these other two who didn’t once
between them (sourly now my row-mate feels
it is important to inform me) listen to a word
she said.  The baby sounds to be
in agony.  We haven’t yet

entirely taxi’d out to take-off.
None of the passengers appears
remotely sympathetic and I can’t help
wincing on the mom’s behalf:  what if
the baby’s sick what if she’s always
like this and mother’s feeling
permanently miserable since given this
one hoped-for getaway she cannot get away
what is a flight if not an escapade and yet
her fellow passengers are blaming her
for what she can’t escape or even manage to
ameliorate what if they’re penniless and this

is her one chance to visit relatives who might
relieve if not relate what if the father’s
always off carousing and comes home
an hour or two to get her
pregnant once again then take
her just as much to task as these more
pampered people on the airplane do
what makes this baby’s life so utterly

unbearable she has
no words to make it
better here for us it’s
just a hundred twenty minutes surely
mom had never dreamt of being
famous to the world this way nor when
she planned a family thought once she’d be
appeasing kids in pain in terror or
in God knows what un-ending rage how can she

possibly control the other two how can they
fail to opportunize on
the baby-made commotion sure enough
just now a wail arises from
the middle child a bid for mom’s
attention in the fray must she

remain alive for all of them?  What is this baby’s
problem?  So endlessly involuntarily
convulsed (I can’t begin to say how
soul-wrenching the screaming is, as if
a scalpel were inserted deep within her ear—
and who among us chooses that?  Child number three

emits her own exploratory wail at last but all along
I swear the nightmare is the baby’s I believe
the rest of us are only restless, irritated, disappointed, lonely,
wishing to be heard as much as left alone, like everybody else.
Life’s awful, we are slaves, if not to parents then
to poverty or policy or pain,
the grinding at the nerve,
the unexpected growth,
the cavity if not in others who
desire or who despise us then
in our desiring or despising, under
legacies of time or DNA or worse, these make us

prey to weepers, leapers, addicts, habits, wedding bells or
verse.  Yet given here the chance for once
to fly to someone’s aid we all

sat grudgingly, and didn’t try.


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