Our son scans a subtly inappropriate
comic. I leaf through my copy of pre-divorce
Sharon Olds for the millionth time.
With one hand, my husband reads
about hairdos to our daughter and, with
the other, reaches inside my legs.
A few hours earlier, he announced
he had to traverse a landmass
to go drive around another track.
The suitcase he brought in today,
with clothes sullied by sweat and stagnation,
unpacked by our door.
I go to the kitchen to get cold water,
because the children ask for cold water.
No one wants to get up.
I grab the kids’ toothbrushes while
I’m at it. For how much longer must I think
of small teeth?
I dispense brushes, pink dishwasher-safe
plastic cups. Then kick the kids out of our
bed, my bed.
They mutiny as a unit—they recently unionized—
and bring sleeping bags. I grab pillows, kneel
to kiss their triumphant heads.
Then lie beside my husband in a way that says, I’ll take you.
I’ll take anyone.
Editor’s Statement (written by Mark Robinson, Mud Season Review Associate Poetry Editor)
In Bedtime Routine, poet Ana Maria Caballero conveys the kind of desperation a mother—any parent—feels when she or he is exhausted but not-quite-done with the day. Her lines remind us repeatedly that the end is going to depend not on our own desires, but on satisfying the children who rely on the speaker, first. Caballero uses precise, matter-of-fact lines (I go to the kitchen to get cold water, / because the children ask for cold water) – almost sarcastic in their simplicity. Further are the compelling and subtle gestures—the speaker’s husband “reaching inside my legs” while he reads to their daughter—which announce a kind of underlying desire to stay connected. The two final lines succinctly capture that blend of wanting and longing and emptiness. This is a poem we can go back to, again and again, for confirmation that yes, someone else gets it!
I wrote this poem within myself before I mapped it out. Many of my poems begin as scraps of verse scribbled onto the backs of books or journals, but this one jumped from mind to keyboard, almost in final form. This happens when I’ve obsessed over the words I wanted to write for a long time. I’m very often writing even when I’m not visibly writing. Like much of my work, this text is both straightforward and layered. It’s a poem of vulnerability and defeat, but also of tenderness and resilience. Its very existence is an act of defiance. There is so much self-love implicit in explicit observation—to trust one’s voice enough to put it forth. To sketch out the pink plastic dishwasher-safe details of our lives and hang them out—out where the breeze blows between homes—to dry.