Paige Riehl is a professor of English, poet, traveler, wife, cat lover, and rock and roll enthusiast (although not necessarily in that order). Originally from South Dakota, she now lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in or are forthcoming in such journals and magazines as Plum Ruby Review, The North Coast Review, Red Weather, The Shining Times, and Poetry Motel.

In the Womb

Perhaps she was more careful with you
ate great slices of dripping oranges
smoked fewer cigarettes,
danced in swooping circles
on the green linoleum, iced tea in hand,
and “Love Will Keep us Together.”

There was no dancing for me.
I attended my father’s funeral
while floating in a gray amniotic pond,
old enough to kick
my own mother in the stomach.

I came out skinny, needed surgery,
a lame leg, an eye that tried to look inward
instead of at the world.

You came out fat, smelling like candy,
laughed a lot and didn’t want to sleep
any of your life away.

I sat silently in the tree, looked down on you
in the sun-dappled sand pile,
content to build roads,
chattering and calling
come and play with me.

I ignored you,
though we share the same fair skin and hair,
and I left when you were eleven,
returned with glossy pictures
of oh, the places I’d been.

You stayed in the sunny backyard,
grew up and replaced the green linoleum.
Now I call frequently,
come and visit me.

The phone lines crackle
under the weight of your silence
while your son,
the same bright smile,
runs beneath the box elder.