Four Poems by Sheila Squillante

Round Baby Believes in Ghosts

—for Carol Anne

Baby believes in ghosts, of course
she does. She can feel if not
see their misty outlines, their heat
wave patterns rising from some
energy field, their once-corporal forms.
Baby’s ghosts belong to her. Ancestral
and loving, she longs to touch
their slim-cheeked faces. Grandfather,
Great-grandmother. Father says
ghosts are just memories or wishes,
shifting pixels trapped inside
television screens. But Baby’s all body
and belief. In her bed, under carnival mesh
that flutters and swirls, she stares
at the Day-Glo constellations and cries,
tries to conjure the scent of skin
and hair. Longs to loan her voice
to their scraped and soothing voices.
They call her from the bright pink
maw of the closet, Baby, we’re here.

Round Baby Runs Away

At the end of the block,
there’s a bus stop,
no, a lamp post,
no, a mouse hole.
Baby, Baby, where
are you planning to go?
Stuff your bag
with provisions:
Matchbox cars,
Shaun Cassidy,
Skylab, Funyuns. Take
the busted umbrella because
Mother’s always calling
for rain. Roll your socks
into tight round
stones. When your feet
get wet, go cold,
stretch them all the way
up and over, bind your top
to your bottom, keep your body
whole and warm and going.
Run, Baby, the street
is long and tree-less
and the summer sun
wants to eat you like
a sweet, fat plum.

Round Baby Finds a Bullet in the Street 

At first she thinks
it’s a turtle, elliptical,
tiny and smooth,
creeping from the median,
across the asphalt,
inching toward her
where she squats
on the hot sidewalk.
She opens her
palm to let it
climb on. Come here,
little cutie.
Let me feed you
seven kinds of lettuce
from Mother’s fridge.
But wait—
look closer.
This morsel’s
movement’s mechanical,
inorganic.
Don’t move, Baby.
It’s heading over.
It’s aiming, straight
and true.

Round Baby Climbs to the Roof of the School

Shoes off,
toes tucked
like mortar
up, up,
hand over
hand. Finger
tip skin rips
against cool,
dark brick.
Baby climbs,
clever as
a spider,
silk-quiet,
and stealth. Lugs
muscles, lungs up
and away
from the playground
below:
You know what
we’re gonna do
to you, Baby? 

Gang

           bang.

Keep going.

Those dopes
don’t know
the lush of
language, Baby,
the danger and delight
of getting a word

just

right.

Tonight, you
climb outside
semantics, scale
your own
scaffolding,
the words
we learn
to skirt
(avoid
          a one-piece
         garment not
        joined between
       the legs)

or launch—
(load
          release)

a volley

(a discharge

             an outpouring

       a burst)

a salvo

(excuse or
                 evasion 

                concentrated fire

                something to soothe
          a person’s reputation 

a rising,

          rousing

        round 

of applause.)

~

Sheila Squillante is the author of the poetry collection Beautiful Nerve (Tiny Hardcore Press) as well as three chapbooks of poetry. She teaches in the MFA program at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, where she serves as editor-in-chief of The Fourth River. She is also blog editor at Barrelhouse.

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