Three Poems – Kristen E. Stone


(Explaining evolution)

The creatures die unless they have the right parts. 

The ones that stay alive and do best have lots of babies.

He understands digestion as creatures
Breaking up his food. Like with a blade?
I get him to brush his teeth by talking about 
Those creatures, on the back of his tongue, the cracks
Between his wide-set milk teeth,
They point to each other at odd angles, 
Like shingles or hard pieces of gum. 
How my teeth stay in? With bone, I guess. 

I think he imagines—I don’t know
What he imagines. He wakes, for the 
First time in months, crying. A nightmare. 
The teacher played zombies with them 
At daycare. I want to slap her, how
Stupid that is, to play like that, with children. 
Adults should be safe. 

Evolution, like the MOA for many psych drugs, 
Like his history, is mostly unclear. Not that
It works, but how. Or: it’s just random. Who
Gets the appendage that will evolve into a foot;
A safe mom, enough to eat. Which kid
Went where. To relatives or a stranger. All the turns
Where he could have gone—elsewhere. 

How the dinosaurs die? Sometimes 
he calls me mama, but not today. 

Today, he realizes names are given, not essential. 
How Mema knew you was Kristen? That’s
The name she picked. His mind turns over, a visible
nimble flop, to wonder who picked his, 
A king from the Hebrew Bible. 

One day I will have to tell him 
everything I know, but not today. 

Everyone was crying when he left. 
Why him leave? 
I don’t think
we’ll ever know. 

The elaborate production of coffee
the tender eye of the horseshoe crab
the hard carapace
the hard parts that remain 
once the eye and skin are gone. 

Where the eyes go? Where the skin?
He asks, looking at the dinosaur, visiting
From Chicago, the great halls 
of information, long lines back 
and back. A dinosaur

can smash a house? No, there 
weren’t any houses then, there weren’t 
any people. How
God make them, then? 

Dragons was real? Dragons was real 
A long time ago?

Babies got tiny bones, he announces in church—
Like birds got. How

The crab die? Who eat it?

The hard bowl of skeleton we found at the beach 
Gets trampled and crushed on the floor of the car 
the ancient thing. 

I am revisiting all the things I love
About natural history—hard bodies
and weird metaphors: motherhood, 

a natural history. 

I wish I could write something 
other than motherhood—but who
with a new baby does?
The nighttime wakings, worries over
eating and doctors, what his brain does
In the dark, its folds and soft pockets. 

Last night a book he chose was too sad
because it had a mommy in it. 
The next book he picked
had mommies too. 

At the city pool, again

The little boys and girls
In their modest suits, amphibian
t-shirts and skirts. Lifeguards
with beautiful tan breasts
and high golden thighs. Ms. Lizzy, 
childless, strong knuckles and a 
scratching voice. 

My mother-life is so dull: I go places
and stand 
with other mothers. 
I feel dumb and shell-shocked. 
Whiplashed and sleepy. Who is
this child. Where
are my friends. Why
is this woman telling me about her daughter
growing breasts, kissing
her cousin? She seems
so young. Is she 
hitting on me? What
is going on. I am too gay
for this weird small talk. 
She notices my boy
lend his goggles to hers. 
That’s nice. J—is sharing with E--. 
Then she yells at her daughter to get out, 
then yells at her for crying. 

I collect my child by the arm. 
He tries to swim away, but it’s time to go. 
I watch myself watching her watch me to see how strict I am.

It was nice talking to you I say weakly. It was. 
He seems so small, the water and skin. 
I hold him in my arms every chance I get. 

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