Meghan Trask Smith
The fosterling burning in this bed
calls out for her mother in a fever dream,
a woman who is not me.
Her mother is handing her
unicorn earrings when I wake
her for Advil. There is no touching
moment when I force the medicine
into her mouth.
On the car ride to the doctor’s
the next morning,
the fosterling specifies
that the dream earrings
were real, not clippies.
Even though the nurse wears
bright pink scrubs and kindly asks,
I have no idea what her medical history is.
I struggle to remember her birthday.
My fosterling is stretched out on the plastic chairs
in the waiting room. I hold a mauve
vomit basin and shift her to my lap
as she puts her arms around my neck.
We could pass as mother and daughter.
Whose life is this? She whispers
that she doesn’t want to be alive,
but no one gasps because I am
the only one who hears those words.
I point to the poster above us of
a dog wearing spectacles.
She does not laugh.
At night, she curls into herself
like an ammonite shell,
perfect symmetry tracing the shape
of another woman’s womb.
She clacks her teeth in sleep. Her small shape
haunts my bedroom in its night-darkened doorway.
She goes beserk when she fights, and
with the frog she has caught up
in the webbing of her palm,
I believe she can commit murder.
I take her pic at the edge of the lake
and realize again that I have no one
to send it to. No one waits for their
phone to light up to see this little
girl’s smallness with the even smaller
frog who inches closer to death
in the heat of her fist.
She packs her bags again
to go out into the world because
we cannot shape her into one of
our own, and I don’t know
where I begin and end in my caretaking.
Down the driveway, she will
blow kisses that the meadow
will take away. The case worker’s
car will bump along our gravel
driveway which we will not
pave because we do not own it.
Bumps and bruises hide in her bones.
Pockets of blood gather
in the corner of the eye.
I will watch her leave and feel love
sluice through me leaving me
brittle in the teeth, small bones
ground down with each breath.
Meghan Trask Smith teaches English at a boarding school in Massachusetts where she lives with her cartoonist husband, boundless children, and a very fuzzy dog. She shows up to writing each day with the hope that the Muse will visit. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has been featured in The American Journal of Poetry, Nonbinary Review, Mom Egg Review, cahoodaloodaling, and Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing.