Soap is the thing that lathers
And froths upon your skin,
And rinses clear–without the which,
You’d be a dirtykin.
And bubbling in the bath is heard,
And filthy be the scene
That could abash the little shard
That kept so many clean.
I’ve seen it labor recklessly
To vanquish reeking pong;
Yet, always, effervescently
It toils until it’s gone.
“You are sick, Isabelle,” the cold mother said,
“And you’ve thrown up every hour, on the hour;
And yet you continue to beg for some bread—
Could your breath be any more sour?”
“In my youth,” Little Bella replied to her mum,
“Way back when I was still embryonic,
You feared I would never stop sucking my thumb,
Which proved you were quite histrionic.”
“You are old,” she continued, “and between me and you
It’s plain you can’t bother to hide
The sad fact that you love it when I get the flu—
It’s shameful, and demented, and snide.”
“In my youth,” said the woman, and she smiled rather faintly,
“I imagined I’d be more maternal;
But then I had children who were bad and unsaintly—
Euphemistically speaking, you’re infernal.”
“And so,” she concluded, “it is natural that
“I’d seek such solace as availed me;
Perhaps this is cruel, but I hold tit for tat
A philosophy which has least derailed me.”
I don’t know. I’m just so tired. So very, very tired. There are so many things for which the Sprogs deserve to be punished every day, I can’t keep up. I need a fulltime personal assistant just to monitor their various infractions so that each one may be properly addressed. It’s like, they’ll go for a week without sneaking cups of sugar out of the pantry at 4:30 a.m., and I’ll think we’re making progress, but then William will draw a picture of an elephant butt taking a dump in the upper right-hand corner of his spelling test where, actually, his name and the date should be. I suspect that his teacher has adopted a strategy of ignoring this kind of jackassery, based on the fact that this came home without a note of concern from the school counselor. And what a refreshing contrast this bears to the half-dozen phone calls I got from a certain unnamed person with a BA in psychology when William, in first grade, spent a month signing all his schoolwork with the nom de guerre “Sausage.”
On the other hand, parent-teacher conferences are next week, and I have a vision of walking into the classroom only to be assailed by a very thick, three-ring binder detailing my son’s many offenses. Compiled by his teacher’s fulltime personal assistant.
O twin sacs of withered flesh
Blasted by autumnal frost
Wrinkled wineskins, nothing fresh
Reminders of a youth that’s lost.
Smooth-skinned bags of ripe desire
That once you were, when love was cheap,
Have sagged; and now you must retire
To some putrescent compost heap.
Let me not at the surgence of small blobs
Admit euphoria, love is not love
Which postpones fructuous issue and thus robs
Me of the fruitage I am worthy of.
O no, the season has a fixèd mark,
August would have been the time to ballyhoo,
But you are not even in the ball park,
With your greenish pods, puny and too few.
Love suffers long—too long. Do not ignore
A rankled hausfrau’s loss of faith, young friend.
Pinchfist puttings-out got you the chop, before.
Indifferency will bring a bloody end.
If this be smallness where I should be big,
I never cared, nor ever gave a fig.
I must seriously be the most self-loathing person in Idaho. Took the family to the mall after dinner because we were out of yogurt culture. That’s right, we drove to the mall to buy us some culture. I proposed that dessert should be a bonbon per person from See’s Candy. This was met with wide approval.
In the Felliniesque freak show that is our mall, I recognize that my children draw extra attention to themselves for their pure outsider-dom. Bella was wearing a long-sleeved dress with rubber boots that are now so small they make her limp. Oh, and it was 96 degrees in the shade. Callie “covered” herself in scraps of sluttiness derived from the latest bag left on our front door step by I really don’t know whom. The waistband of William’s track pants was hoisted to its usual position, two inches south of his nipples.
But then I noticed his ear:
It somehow escaped my attention that his left ear was either stung or bitten yesterday. He can’t remember the exact details. But the effect is horrific. It looks like a fistful of flesh-colored playdough, three times larger than normal and (how is this even possible?) quite a bit lower on his head.
Last week of summer, I am very much over you.
It’s demoralizing to have one’s rubbish examined by one’s neighbor and be found wanting, is it not? Such was the case yesterday, when the woman from the house on the corner knocked on my door a few minutes after I’d arranged our garbage on the curb at the end of my driveway.
“So sorry to bother you,” she says, “but I was wondering if my husband could take the tricycle you’ve left by your bin to Goodwill. Because then it could be enjoyed by another child?”
“Do you know,” I say, “I don’t think it could, actually. It’s broken.”
“Perhaps it could be fixed,” she suggests (patiently). She is from Europe. She is unaware that I can read her mind, a fact which gives me no pleasure and certainly no advantage.
‘I wish it could,” I reply. “We got it from the neighbors next door. Their two daughters outgrew it. Our daughters have ridden it pretty hard. I’m sure it’s beyond repair.” My girls thrashed the hell out of that trike. Still, I find myself justifying my garbage to this person.
“I wonder,” she counters, “if a disadvantaged child might still enjoy it.”
“Enjoy sitting on it, you mean?” I assume an expression of genuine contemplation. Yes, I can picture it. A dirt-encrusted girl with dubious hair (who is the spiting image of my four year-old) sits on the broken tricycle. “Why don’t the pedals move forward, Mommy?” she asks. “Because we’re poor, sweetie. We can only have broken things. Try to understand.”
My neighbor and I have reached a quick impasse. Perhaps she can read my mind, too. I hope not.