A birthday party is letting out. I look into a passing family’s stroller. Before I say anything the parents ask, “Can we leave them with you?” Inside the stroller are five, weird-looking babies, all jumbled up. Josh makes a noise that means he doesn’t want these babies and finds them disgusting. “My husband—” I say, apologetically. “Fine,” says the father. The parents take two of the babies so I will only have to watch three. When I look up, the babies and the stroller are gone. I hear a car screech and see the stroller—actually just the chassis—lying overturned in the street. I run down the street and find the top part of the stroller. Filled with dread, I turn the stroller basket over. Inside are those three terrible babies, unharmed.
DAY CARE DREAM
Josh is a graduate student again. There’s a place on campus that offers on-sight childcare. There is also a place, next door to the childcare center, where I can leave filets of fish in various tanks of marinade and pick them up later. I drop Judah off quickly but struggle at the fishmonger. I keep putting my filets in the wrong kind of marinade. The woman in charge is short tempered and offended by my ignorance of fish species. My slowness causes a line to form behind me. I’m deeply ashamed.
Jeremy and Amy have a baby boy. When I visit I see that the baby is a newborn but sitting at a table in a little chair. The baby smiles and reaches for things. I feed the baby a small spoonful of broccoli and garlic. The baby looks surprised. It dawns on me that I’ve done something wrong. I wipe the broccoli off the baby’s face and bring him to Amy. I make it seem like the baby reached for the broccoli and put it in his mouth himself. “I can see it,” she says as she opens the baby’s mouth. There are several un-chewed florets of broccoli as well as whole pieces of lettuce in the baby’s mouth. We fish most of the food out of the baby’s huge, muppet-like mouth. I’m scared and embarrassed. “I don’t know anything about the lettuce—” I say. The baby closes his mouth and becomes a Lego transformer machine. I fiddle with the baby but can’t find his mouth shape again. I want Amy to move the baby’s soul to another machine but am afraid to ask her to try.
RACHEL ZUCKER is the author of four collections of poems, most recently Museum of Accidents. These dream poems will appear in her next collection, The Pedestrians & Fables (Wave Books, 2014). Zucker teaches poetry at NYU and is the recipient of a NEA fellowship.
Read more by Rachel Zucker:
Poem at Poetry Daily
Essay in The New York Times