– Cristina J. Baptista –

This sailing toward you is the maneuver
of a paper boat
with paperclip rigging. A child’s hand
pushes it—thumb extended behind—
across the Atlantic of a mud-hole
gurgling with green hose water.

In the house, the mother is tired,
striking tenderized meat a second time
to make it stretch a little farther.
Knuckles raw, fingers swollen—
the wedding band slips from bone
to joint
and back again
with each pound pound pound. 

            She has wrapped the ring in Scotch
            Tape, which peels in thin ribbons
            pressed flat against her fingers
            like muscle fibers strained
            on a cold, raw chicken breast.

            This is a true aching,
            buried in a row of carpals.

The hoisting of the day is almost done;
she sets table, calls son, waits
for husband who hasn’t come yet.
The child’s knees are smeared with mud,
his hair plastered to one ear and the right
part of his forehead, where there is
a strange brown birthmark
that would frighten her
if he wasn’t her own.

            Tired woman stretches one hand
            to push his hair into place, to tidy.

This reaching toward you
is the same desperate move—
to make do, to have left,
to make over.