Cookie crumbs, pumpkin seeds pepper the floor
beneath the stool of this child I adore—
a slovenly child who is perfectly able
to spill half her milk on the floor near the table.
As she sits cutting paper dolls, paper bits flutter
down from the piles of snippets and clutter
she amasses around her in any room where
I’ve worked half the morning just to prepare
for the meeting with friends that occurs in an hour.
The sofa cushions she spread in a tower
are ringing the sofa back, placed in a mound
to catch mountaineer Barbie should she fall to the ground.
Covered by green napkins, the pillows now pass
for a fantasy hillside all covered in grass.
I scoop up the clutter and then the small miss,
ransom the cookies for a small kiss,
then hurry to try to clean up the room.
Locate new napkins, then brandish the broom,
sweeping up crumbs and paper and things
left in her wake just before the bell rings
and the first guest enters, surveying the scene
now cleared of the mess. Perfectly serene.
“I don’t know how you do it, with work and a kid,”
my friend says, not knowing the stuff that I hid
just two minutes ago behind the hall door
that once only held coats but now holds a lot more:
Barbie dolls, crayons and scissors and scraps
as well as neat rows of sweaters and wraps.
Family secrets that we’ll never tell
that every mommy knows all too well.