by Sharon Waller
The mother of the precocious
four-year-old with chocolate
eyes and eyelashes dark
and curly as the Maybelline
TV commercials always
has an excuse why she can’t
afford to pay me or put him
in preschool and why
she can’t pick him up at 3 pm
when her shift at Dairy Queen
ends, and I don’t care because
I wish he were mine, but when
it’s time to close the bookstore,
and I can’t reach her, I’m worried.
He isn’t. Don’t worry about it,
he says. I’ll just live with you
and Big Foot, my big black cat.
I say, Oh, I wish you could.
I order pizza and read him
every kid’s book in the store.
Finally at 8:30 pm, his mother
shows up smelling of Listerine,
with no explanation or excuse.
Jeremy cries and clings to me.
When he is sixteen, the same age
his mother was when she had him,
he drops by the bookstore and asks
if I remember that day. I say I am
surprised he even remembers me
because I hadn’t seen him for years.
He says: Of course, I remember you.
You were not my babysitter.
You were my mother.
* * * * *
Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in a wildlife habitat in Arizona. She has published five chapbooks including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields and in various journals including Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, Red Eft Review and The Song Is…