“A cradle thief,” my mother called the man
we’d see in shops, cafes, parks, even church,
with “that poor girl” beside him. Hand in hand,
they’d walk as if they didn’t feel the scorch
of people’s stares. The day we saw him press
his lips to hers, my mother blocked my eyes
as if his mouth (I longed for my first kiss)
against her mouth was smothering her cries.
All week, I ran a fever that wouldn’t break.
“A cradle thief”—a voice I only half
knew as my own surprised me in the dark,
my sick-bed wet with shivers. “A cradle thief,”
I said again, as if the words could will
my window broken, footprint on the sill.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 35 Number 10, on page 27
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