November 2009

Cristina J. Baptista


Cristina J. Baptista's work is most recently forthcoming in The Baltimore Review, Phi Kappa Phi Forum, and Shakespeare's Monkey Revue. She lives in New York City, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Modern American Literature at Fordham University. She also teaches undergraduate English classes at Fordham.

A Story That Almost Happened    

He said, "take him,
the one who wets the bed," and lifted
you up into the stranger's cart,
where the mule squinted from beneath
his blinders, where you were dumb-
founded and silent until tears reminded
why you were crying.
The tears came first,
then the recognition.

At two
or three, you were unimportant,
an inconvenience in a house without running
water or a bathroom or a kitchen.
It boasted broods of dark lizards
and centipedes that squirmed,
often, into your soup bowl,
that draped, sometimes, over your spoon.
Too many children were fighting over
that bowl, the extra morsels of unsuspecting flies
that dropped from the webs.
Delicate, sensuous creatures—
the kinds with variable wings and colors—
it could have been beautiful
but for the conditions.

It is a dirty thing when a child clutches
a spoon as if it were his knife.

Supper is served
and you are being pulled from the house
by a stranger, by a stranger's animal,
by an animal smaller than the man he pulls.
Your tears grow and grow, and you feel sorry
for so many things, until your father
remembers who he is—Pai, pai,
and reaches over to repossess you.

It was the swipe of a great arm
that slashed its shadow over your chest,
and pulled you back. Can you be thankful
when the one who saves you
was the one who put you in need of saving?

Now, you wonder if it was you
that made him do it,
or the disconcerting scrutiny
of the mule's dark, almond eye.



Cristina J. Baptista: Poetry
Copyright ©2009 The Cortland Review Issue 45The Cortland Review