Only Ever This Age

She pulled up
her stockings when she noticed them
and tried not to scratch.

She was always careful with the dog.
He knocked her over but

was outside anyway. It was just regular -
every family had brought a dog,
every family trailed a baby in yellowing lace.

It was always sour
expressions and hidden,
tinny laughter that rusted

like the mother-in-law's plates,
that old cup from back home.
The outer hills

rushed up to shadow
small parlors and long windows. In the afternoon

she stood on small legs,
meant to throw the stick when it clung to her hand. He looked

so eager and disappointed.
It was time to go in so they
resented it calmly together.

Days were shortened
by his bland yap and the dated kitchens.

She wrinkled her forehead and felt like
the only child in the world.

Maybe school next year, maybe.

Her brown feet,
the blank possibility of
her street,
the winter sun so
beneath scrutiny.

The sidewalks have this

dog-eared history
but it was just regular - every family had lost a baby, the pages

were always crinkling underneath them. Her parents
just scrub-faced and hers. In the end,
she was buried somewhere
else entirely.
The sidewalks buckled and the streets
filled up. I lied to you and missed her face.