Two Poems


The mother’s starting signal had been the opening
music of Sesame Street. If she could time
her escape, the kids wouldn’t notice her absence,
and by the end of the show, any lingering
evidence would have dissipated
from her person.

Lucky that a bathroom shower
was at the other end of the house.
The shower was a room with a sunken tub
large enough to contain a few chairs.
The ceiling had a powerful fan, theoretically
loud enough to drown out the kids
pounding on the locked door.

The entire ritual would take about fifteen minutes.
On the top shelf of the bathroom closet
were her paraphernalia: the collected shower caps
from Hiltons and Sheratons which she rotated
for each smoke to cover her hair;
the toothbrush, mouthwash, perfume, and mints.

She’d sit on a chair in the tub naked
except for her shower cap
and think about what she’d say to the police
and fire fighters who would probably
ax the door down looking for her
after the older child dialed 9-1-1
when she couldn’t find their mom
as the toddler girl choked
or ran away from the house.
The mom thought about how, except for this,
she was a good mother.
She watched the cigarette burn too slowly
between puffs, but dreaded its end, not knowing
when she’d have a chance to shower again.

If she chewed a handful of Altoids
and brushed her teeth with Listerine,
and sprayed Calvin Klein Escape on throat
and wrists, all that was left to do
was get dressed again into clothes
safely hung out of smoke’s way.
All before Big Bird’s second appearance.


Explain in an Essay

of one hundred words or less
why your child should be named
Hockey Kid of the Year

My daughter is six. Since age two she has been an off-campus student of the Better Baby Institute in Philadelphia. In addition to reading at a junior high level, she runs three miles daily. Twice weekly she dives with a retired Olympic diving coach. She is learning Japanese and Polish. Next spring she will appear as violin soloist with the Cleveland Women’s Orchestra. At age three she swam sixteen laps of the crawl stroke in a Better Baby Institute fund raiser at the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential. My daughter’s only reason for not playing hockey is my own inadequacy in managing her time. I implore you not to punish her for this. I know that I have exceeded one hundred words and for this I apologize, but surely you can understand how special her situation is. I assure you that she will shine in her role as Hockey Kid of the Year.

—Lucia May, St. Paul, MN