Today's poem is by Mira Rosenthal

Washington, DC

When the law terrifies us
with its emptiness, we go looking
for stones on the earth—let's pretend

I am actually thinking that
to myself while we sit
by the slides and watch flecks

of my daughters' dresses darting
through the structure, vigilance
arranging sight past wooden

slats that cast their shafts
of shadow over the jungle
gym, igniting. Oh, as if light

has a right to desire
this cut-to-the-quick lick of
the very foundation. Whatever

my friend is divulging about
diapers, it is thoroughly white
and totally bare-assed—I wish

she'd put a diaper on it. But
instead I say something
about absorbency. My thoughts

refract into my eye sockets.
To look on. To spectate. It feels over-
indulgent of me: a spectacle

of the self, some crystalline
lattice that can be seen
microscopically, atoms and ions

in tiny boxes infinitely
repeating. Put your mind at rest.
This is only an experiment

with water and Epsom Salt.
In the morning we'll all wake,
as usual, flat-faced and

unpleasantly transparent.
An experiment, yes, in public
space, and I am listening, tight

wire strung for upset, witness
of specks and what's hidden
on the underside of things

affixed with so many wads
of ancient gum. Preoccupied is
one word, unnerved another

for what it's like within
the government of my skin.
And I, by habit or shame, confess

the lawn is less than lavish
display, but it is the stage
where their father waves

and continues to debate
with old friends from his days
of politics and state

budgets. He practices loving
distraction as our girls turn
cartwheels through the green.

Even he remembers
to put shorts under skirts
for moments like these

unexpected revelations
eyeballed from periphery. Like
this girl sidling into

my vision from the double
slides where again she's racing
a rock beside her, over and over,

claiming, I won .. . I won ...
Is it cold of me to cringe?
To flinch at how oblivious

she is to herself? Obvious
as the rock in her hand,
as her desire to win and

her loneliness. She chooses
when to let it go from the fold
of her palm, dusty and bare,

when to push off
with the rock trailing like
a comet through the vast

galaxy of her play.
That would make her
an asteroid, or the sun.

And my sarcastic reaction?
But tail. I'm merely distracting
or distracted from the actual

game we're here for—
not the watching of the game
but ourselves in it

and no remorse for the normal
course built around us, brilliance
of daylight striking irrelevant

lines scratched into plastic by button
and shoelace and thumbnail and
snap and, yes, rock racing

into this stock beauty, all of us
daughters weaving our way
through the haunters.

Copyright © 2017 Mira Rosenthal All rights reserved
from The Literary Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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