I spot him pulling a Christmas tree
from a dumpster in the parking lot.
My stomach knots when I realize
his father, the one he feels
he should live with for now, has not
cared enough to buy one for him.
As I near, he smiles, the light
in his eyes pulling at my heart.
“Hi, Mom. Someone threw out
this perfectly good tree.
I’m gonna surprise my dad!”
He searches my face for the approval
he needs. I concentrate on his eyes.
“You’re so good at finding surprises.”
I remember a red stamp holder,
shaped like a mailbox,
that he bought for me at a yard sale.
He is still, soaking in my praise,
the moment slowing to a stop,
when I cannot bear any pause
in this wait for him to understand
that he will never do enough to please
his father. I point to the tree.
“Would you like me to get my car
and drive you home?”
He scans the parking lot, nodding
toward a rusted pickup that is pulling
into the driveway. “That’s okay.
The janitor came by earlier and said
he’d take me.”
When they are ready to leave,
I pull him close, burying my face
in hair that has grown coarse
over the year, breathing in
as I remember my newborn boy,
his sweet baby smell, wispy hair
tickling my nose.
Sharyl Collin started writing poetry about four years ago. Her poems have appeared in various publications, including Mason’s Road Literary Journal, Wild Goose Poetry Review, *82 Review, The Intentional and Lummox.