Voices on the Wind
by Leslie Clark
Is it possible that I remember, as an infant, lying in my carriage
staring at the cracked arch of the living room doorway?
I heard a spuriously sweet voice cooing over my cuteness,
smothering gardenia perfume and menthol smoke odor
caught in a bouffant hairdo, some black-framed eyes
seeming to bore through my delicate flesh.
Then, jolting forward movement after the piling on
of several blankets, heavy on my delicate limbs.
The creaking of the front door, sudden
blast of cold outside air, jarring bumps down
front porch steps, then wheels whispering
over pavement, an occasional jolt
over a root-raised cement square.
Somewhere behind my bonneted head, two female
voices droned—the one I loved most—she of food
and cuddles, and the other, linked to nastiness and gardenias.
The conversation played a tune like my crib-buddy,
up and down, loud and soft, very excited just before
the good-byes and the drifting off of the one that
felt so wrong. Mom and I wheeled on in peaceful silence.
As we turned around, my mother’s face appeared,
hovering over me as she tucked covers in more firmly
Don’t mind her, she told me. She means well,
but she has no business around babies.
In spite of blankets, I shivered.
Could I have perceived that strange woman meant future danger?
My wariness of gardenias and menthol cigarettes lingered,
a very early warning of life’s precariousness.