<%@ Language=VBScript %> Awaken - Mused - the BellaOnline Literary Review Magazine
BellaOnline Literary Review

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Kayleigh Merritt

My cousin is hung over
in her dark room
when her little girl wakes,
arms and legs stretched wide,
a pink starfish in her Dora quilt.
Her feet thump against the wall
and she sing-songs, “Mama!”

three times before I climb the stairs,
whisper good morning, and lift.
Legs wrap tight around my middle,
arm behind my neck;
she wipes a mess of dirty blonde
from her eyes, asking,
“Where’s Mama?”

In the kitchen, she sits, and I fix
her hair up with a purple clip,
place gluten-free bread in a sheath
toast it, slather it with—“Strawberry jam?”
“Peanut butter, please”—
find her sippy cup, give her juice.
I know the motions.

The dishes washed,
I lay on the couch, television on.
She lies across me, quiet,
eyes filled with Peppa Pig, Abney and Teal,
hand curled against my shoulder.
My hand, flat, covers her back,
rises with her soft breaths.

And me,
who never wanted children, I think
I could do this.