Justin Boening

Not that we were talking about babies,
but yours offends me. It’s impolite, after all,
for infants to be threatening, isn’t it?
Last night, as you carried the little angel home
from the hospital, through the streets,
the townsfolk were jumping into traffic, ending it all
before it got any worse—and it got
so much worse. Of course, your child
is gorgeous, it’s just far too gorgeous. And it’s bad
manners, I think. Wave after wave of panic
flooded us until even the anemic
incandescent bulbs that lit our streets
became unbearably bright, and our faces
went numb. Let’s be clear: the avalanche
of music that dribbled from your child’s
interminable chortles was almost
without a doubt of a higher alien intelligence—
coo of Jew’s harps, pandemonium
of cimbalom, a theremin thunder terrifying
by design, holy glass harmonica—
as though each note were rehearsing on us,
as though we were meat hanging from hooks,
as though every mistake we’d made
we’d made to ready us for this, this
for which it would have been impossible to be
less ready. The ease with which the newborn
ignored us left us with so little of what
we’d once called ourselves. And when
you finally hid the child in its crib,
away from us, out of sight, we fell
to the street pavement and wept and rolled
and prayed, but to whom? And then the moon
made its appearance as usual, and the cicadas
reconvened in the grasses, and we stood up
to take each other in our arms—
wrap each other in our long
elastic branches, so young and budding
they’d only barely begun to breathe—
knowing the terror that remained in us
wasn’t ours to own.

Justin Boening is the author of Not on the Last Day, but on the Very Last, a winner of the 2015 National Poetry Series, as well as Self-Portrait as Missing Person, which was awarded a Poetry Society of America National Chapbook Fellowship.