I did that, for years

The baby fussed again 

Of course his gums itching and aching and he couldn’t be sure of where the pain ended and 

The world began, all for a tooth or teeth, no one cared or knew.  

My wife tired and chest sore, he chewed her through such a rain blacked night that the trees slip shroud like inkwell splashed sentries and 

In the glassy cloud-screened dawn I took him to let her sleep; he, still writhing but so tired, also asleep. 

In the trendy baby bjorn pouch strapped to my chest, North Face fleece, livery of the entitled impoverished upper middle class, ennui festering like gout. 

Bright bright red USC hat on my head like a struck match, I slip past hotel doors, guilty of the night’s noise but the rubber Vans soft stepping on the thin worn industrial carpet, thieving out into the storm washed air

She lazys the bed, the relief, and the quick shroud of REM. 

Quiet, still, I have the morning to myself

And man it framed in Vans in North Face in USC

But not really, the tired boy will wake, maybe in screams. 

Wandering the slaked streets, the sewers gurgling softly still, the engineered rivers gliding high in their piped banks

my eye catches the blue razor vein of the pacific rolling between the houses and shops. 

And out past the brining foamed surf and the dolphins breaching and arcing and tumbling and fishing in the cold blue, almost to the shipping lanes that bring us the cheap useless things we fight and die for;

out there, there are gold spills of sun on the sea, too far here to see the waves as glinting mirrors of light,

But far, far, far, to see the big heaping dabs of the promised gold clear day, cutting its way through the roiling clouds but not here, not just yet. 

My phone, the glowing shard of glass that runs so much of my life and heart tells me the nearest pharmacy and off, fleet footed Mercury, we set 

he, strapped to me like the ticking time bomb of piercing screaming pain. 

I find it, the sickly green lettering clear, iced over behind the store front glass

And slip in; the shop bell pawing behind me like a frustrated cat, 

ask for benzocane to balm his masticating misery, pay the price even though the frustrated cat 

can still scratch. Quick like a sigh

I step out once more into the bottle glass light of the fading sea storm grey-blue that feels like binoculars held the wrong way

Slip again, this time just a bit of the balm on my finger and along the gums

he fusses a little but is too tired and collapses again against my chest the lub-thump of my heart the only sound he needs. 

Then blinking head up I look both ways down the street and scissor step back to the sleeping hotel 

But a man in a USC sweatshirt red yellow against all the blues and the greys and the greens of the eroding night, catches my eye 

Hair silver grey, handsome and fit, his coffee cup held expertly aside, its mouth breathing steam out into the pallid morning air.

 He knows what he’s looking at:

“You watch him? That’s great, I did that, for years with all three kids and have great relationships with them now that they are grown.” 

And he smiles and I smile and we see each other at the ends of the continuum and I just can’t thank him enough and turn my tears starting to burn their way out of my eyes and

Salt snails gliding down my cheeks, much faster than I thought possible

I tamp and I tamp and I tamp 

the emotions down further out of reach, hold it together 

And I walk fast