by Theodora Goss
Sometimes the words decide
they don’t like me anymore.
They don’t want to sit next to me on the bus
or hold my hand in the store —
they walk behind me in the public park
as though we weren’t related at all.
Why are you angry? I ask them.
Have we quarreled? What did I say?
They just look away.
I tell myself it’s simply a phase
that words go through.
They don’t always feel about you
the way you feel about them:
affectionate, solicitous, protective.
They can be as unruly as children,
as disdainful as cats,
scattering this way and that.
Form a proper line, I tell them,
and they won’t.
All day long they’ve disobeyed you,
leaving their toys on the floor
so you stumble over legos and neglected dolls,
or tugging at the hem of your dress,
asking for ice cream.
You secretly dream
of telling them to go to hell
and becoming a plumber, a seamstress,
Finally you go to bed, exhausted
from the struggle.
And suddenly, there they are —
curled up against your back,
snuggling under your chin.
Damn them! But you can’t help
reaching out to stroke their soft fur,
forgiving all, tucking them in.
(The image is With Thoughtful Eyes by Jessie Wilcox Smith.)