I saw Jacqueline right away. Under her lime green sunhat, my daughter was easy to spot. Standing at the far end of the play yard, her tiny clenched fists were pressed tight against her ears in a futile attempt to drown out the terrifying sound.
Garbage Day. My heart dropped to my stomach soon as I’d rounded Fuller Avenue, where the stalled traffic on the narrow block told me the garbage truck was up ahead, readying it’s groaning, grinding, gnashing maw while my unsuspecting progeny waited her turn for one of the push cars until I picked her up from noon dismissal.
Jacqueline was mostly easy-going. Barking dogs, stinging bees, dark closets and creaky night-time noises — my daughter shrugged them all off. But the sound of an approaching garbage truck drove my daughter to distraction, especially the voracious leviathan as it fed on the endless offerings provided by the nursery school and the apartments lining the rest of the block — the jarring clang as the forked claws grasped the enormous iron dumpster, hoisting it aloft with a fearsome screeching and straining then pouring the rattling, clattering contents down inside the beast’s belly for mashing and grinding while those mighty arms slammed the emptied bin back to the pavement. The play yard bordered the street, so for my daughter there was no escaping the din when the garbage truck came lumbering up Fuller during pickup.
I pulled into the school parking lot and didn’t bother locking my doors before I took off sprinting toward play yard where the behemoth’s growl reverberated over the cinder block enclosure. The cacophony was joined by the school’s clanking dumpster as the driver pushed it toward the idling beast. My daughter’s panic now my own, I knew any moment those steel-plated arms would lock on the dumpster. If only my own arms could hold Jacqueline she’d feel safe and protected when the hydraulic lift started in with its deafening whine. Could I make it in time? Yes, I could do it! I’d reach my girl!
My perception narrowed until there was only me, my daughter and the oblivious moving obstacles between us. Like a linebacker, I charged forward, right forearm extended and left elbow pressing my pendulous leather satchel tight against my ribs. I zigged around two boys who’d emerged from nowhere, bumbling toward the purple dinosaur rocker. I weaved around the pee-wee jungle gym, choosing the alleyway it formed along the side of the building. My path was wide open. I was going to make it!
I’d plowed past the end of the structure when without warning a nanny stopped directly in front of me and kneeled to tie her charge’s shoe. I hurdled over her but stumbled on her tote bag as I landed. “Sorry!” I called over my shoulder before weaving around a plastic push car where a heated argument had broken out between the vehicle’s occupant and three knee-high bystanders.
I’d narrowed the distance between me and Jacqueline to just a few yards, but a thicket of mothers had cropped up between us. I caught a few strands of their conversation — something about the park and a play date — before the sound of steel hitting iron drowned out their voices. “Jacqueline!” I shouted, but the brim of her hat blocked her view.
It was Lupé, the teacher’s aide my daughter spotted, and it was Lupé who scooped my daughter onto her hip. I felt Jacqueline’s relief along with an unwelcome pang of envy when Jacqueline buried her face in a shoulder that wasn’t mine. Over the sound of Jacqueline’s muffled tears and the packer blade smashing down the truck’s new load, I heard Lupé’s words of comfort to my daughter. “It’s okay, mija,” she said. “Everything’s okay.”
By the time Jacqueline was buckled into her carseat, her tears had dried, and the garbage truck had driven away. But my feelings of disappointment and inadequacy still rattled inside me.
“What’s the garbage truck saying when it makes that sound?” I found myself asking.
Jacqueline was unequivocal. “The truck’s crying for its mommy!”
Her answer surprised me. “Is that what you thought the truck is saying?” I said, sensing opportunity. “Oh no, that’s not what the truck’s saying! The truck’s saying, ‘Help! So heavy!’” I moaned the words for dramatic effect.
Jacqueline’s eyes softened, and I didn’t miss the smile that spread across her face.
It was Garbage Day, and I was redeemed.
Mara A. Cohen Marks’ essays have appeared in Alimentum, The Hairpin, Pentimento, Jewrotica and Medium. She has also authored numerous articles and op-eds that have appeared in outlets such as The Los Angeles Daily News, La Opinion, New American Media, Los Angeles Business Journal, and numerous peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Her daughter has conquered her fear of garbage trucks. Visit her at www.maracohenmarks.com, like her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/mara.cohen.marks, and follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/MaraCohenMarks.
Your little birthing signals were shy
compared to nature’s art exhibit:
the October opening reception
in celebration of fuchsia leaves.
Skinny-legged gossamer fairies
got up early to paint them
and to dance
on my grandma’s crazy quilt,
which covered you and me.
Born to be a woman of October,
of wisdom brought by seasons,
of beauty brought by contrast,
of wholeness brought by harvest,
the woman you now are.
Fuchsia leaves color-poke me
summoning the knowledge
you, my child, brought me long ago.
Fall shows us that life is full,
but can always gather more joy
to meniscus curve the rim.
Marilyn Zelke-Windau is a Wisconsin poet and a former elementary school art teacher. She enjoys painting with words. Her poems have appeared in many printed and online venues including Verse Wisconsin, Stoneboat, Fox Cry Review, Your Daily Poem, Midwest Prairie Review and several anthologies. Her chapbook Adventures in Paradise (Finishing Line Press) and a full length manuscript, Momentary Ordinary (Pebblebrook Press) were both published in 2014.
I’m trying to keep caffeine from contaminating my breast milk because it blasts my baby from alert to berserk which further darkens the purple smudges swimming under my pale blue eyes.
Then, he cries, and lickety
split I’m to his side
lifting him from his crib
into the cradle of my arms.
I watch his eyes connect with mine, they’re violet blue, shinier than the south shore water, a pair of periwinkles twinkling light back to me
lilting me to a new plane
a sparkling white sheet on a tired mattress
a glittering glacier walked on
by mothers everywhere
with tired eyes and unwashed hair.
I rise to the wonder of birth and rebirth.
Monica Flegg lives on Nantucket Island with her husband and two children. Her work has been published in; the Aurorean, Awake, A Nantucket Writer’s Workshop in Print, The Pine Island Journal of New England Poetry and PostScripts.
Up to now,
my daughter has had her childhood made
between the dueling clock,
and my motherly arms–
I can still see the tiny, bent form in bed at dawn,
dark hair feathered all around on the pillow
traces of night seeped out from coiled fingertips,
behind the windowpane,
sunrise marked the sky overhead
a shade of peach orange–
soft as silk,
the morning air wormed
into the rise and fall of her chest,
those sweet chocolate eyes blinked away sleep,
and in the corner,
the clock chimed its early hour–
there were those narrow seconds before
the universe spun into wake,
before it split open the comforting veil of illusion
as the burdens of day captured my whole
became just another ghost slaving away on earth–
I shrunk down beside her,
tucked my daughter’s body into the pleats of an embrace,
and for that small primrose instant,
I was eased from the living and its chaos,
to simply be.
Lana Bella has published work with over one hundred journals, including a chapbook with Crisis Chronicles Press (Spring 2016), Ann Arbor Review, Chiron Review, Literary Orphans, Poetry Salzburg Review, elsewhere, among others. She divides her time between the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a wife of a talking-wonder novelist, and a mom of two far-too-clever-frolicsome imps. https://www.facebook.com/niaallanpoe