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Sheila Squillante

Round Baby Can’t Taste it Yet

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Round ball, round Baby. Round with worry. Worry
like a lozenge, lodged in her throat. She can’t taste it
yet, but carries it with her, rolls it between legs
splayed open on the floor, on top of polyester
shag carpet. Downstairs orange, cream and black.
Upstairs blues and greens. When you pass your one
hand over it, fire. The other, water, moss, dark earth.

Baby sits on the rug with Mother; the ball rolls back and forth.

Round Baby Dreams of Apples

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Baby dreams of apples, red and gold,
plucked from high branches by her clunky
mitten hands. Sister sits in the muddy earth
beneath low limbs, munching on Empires,
Winesaps, Jona Gold. Three bites then pitches
them into the dirt path between orchard
rows. Baby crunches a tart green globe,
feels the sour rush, ugly, to her stomach.
Another. Another. Mother warns her
toward temperance. Too many apples
will play havoc with your body, Baby.
Screw up your systems. Lay you out. Baby
eats everything, even the seeds, wonders
how long it will take a tree to root between
her liver and spleen. Frothy green limbs
tending toward blazing sun lungs.

Round Baby Boils the Bones

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At the kitchen table,
Baby tears at roasted chicken
from the grocery store,
pulling limp skin loose.
It’s mid-afternoon
and sister’s in her bedroom,
squirming beneath a boy she blew
at school. No sound coming
out of there, but Baby knows.
Fingers to greasy lips, she feeds
herself though she’s not hungry for
once. The white meat separates
easily from the breast plate,
slides off in one long chunk
she can shred. In a few years,
Sister will escape, fly through
an open window, grabbing at
skin as she goes. When all the flesh
comes off the bird, Baby will boil
the bones for soup
and for jewelry—wishbone
strung like a brittle pendant
from the ripcord hanging
loosely at her neck.

Round Baby Pronounces and Proclaims

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Baby’s a maker.
Fits plastic sticks
into gear wheels.
Wooden dolls
to clamps and dowels.
Press here to open.
Look, she moves her leg!
Baby makes words
in new languages
with her regular
tongue. Strings sounds
like beads from a craft
kit. Shiny balls that scatter
and roll. Bits of import wedged
between nonsense
and noise. Baby pronounces
and proclaims. Undeterred
by syntax, she moves
to her own motions, bleats
beats and buzzings, beautiful
illumined sounds that signal
and suggest.

Round Baby Pivots and Bursts

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The gym floor’s slick
and nobody’s watching so
Baby twirls in sweater tights,
gathering static with every
twist. A scrawling
proclamation, gyroscopic
chaos, hot and faster, around
she goes and when she stops
the whole gym glows
like an ember. Baby pivots
and bursts from her uniform skirt,
blue plaid sparks spray as she spins
like a pencil, ground down
and sharpened to a beautiful, brutal

Round Baby Orients Herself by the Glow

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In the constellated dark, Baby heads into the thicket,
treks miles out to find her way back in. Too many stars
and none of them home. Baby speaks answers
into the air and waits for a marker to appear:
in the forest, on the roof, don’t go in there, float
Which part of longing is kindness? Which bile?
How can you feel lousy about light? Go to bed,
Baby, here on the hoary ground. Park your pack
by the side of the road and when sun comes see
who’ll stop if you use your mouth. This way,
that way, where ya going, girlie? Orient yourself
by the glow of lightning bugs and billboards.
By the sound of gravel grinding like teeth in thin sleep.

➥ Bio