to build you / Perfectly Nice People : Two Poems about the Foster Care System
to build you.
Mom is barely twenty and strung out on meth.
You didn’t ask to be a leaseholder in this piss-poor house,
sipping her juices like
toxic ground water through a straw
(the liquid dregs of whatever is left)
for nine months, give-or-take,
when your muscles and your organs and your mind
needed so much more
to build you from a fleeting moment, to a zygote to
a human being.
Perfectly Nice People.
The house across the street burst into flames.
Neighbors line up at the curb,
slack-faced and gaping,
synching robes tight,
avoiding winter snow and slush
in slippers and sock feet.
Seeing more of each other then they would care to,
unpacked and disheveled.
Someone says, “My god, there’s a child in there.”
One woman takes her husband’s elbow, “You better go in and get her!”
That husband says to another nearby husband who is
younger and more strapping, “Uh, no, you really should go.”
And it goes on like this, a row of
perfectly nice people,
discussing and deflecting,
stagnant as a row of shrubs,
thankful their own children are tucked safely into cotton sheets,
with white noise machines to drown out
the beastly, gnashing sounds
of fire as it gobbles up
the horizon and its contents,
like a sunrise.