The Escape Artist’s Mother

Even in the womb, he turned

and turned, seeking always a light, a way

to burrow. He came weeks too soon,

feet first. Before he could walk,

he was rolling away. Early, she learned

the smallest playground, the one

with the latch and tall fence

was the only safe place

to play, having lost sight of him

too many times, his small body twisting

as he ran further and further away.

The high walls, the barbed-wire

fences; they kept showing up

in the patchwork squares of her dreams.

His father was another reason to run:

the broken glass, the piss-poverty.

When he could get them, he read

book after book, mostly about those

who set themselves free. Even then he knew

the greatest must first be confined,

so he sought out lock and key. He wasn’t bad.

He was just searching, and the bottles,

the pills, they were only part of the game,

another hatch to pry open. Tonight,

she thinks about the word corazón,

how it feels like the hinges

of a condor’s wings opening,

her fledgling shot into the dark.

She’s known about this night

for years, seen it in so many dreams.

She switches off the television,

goes back to worrying the beads

between her fingers, all night

the searchlights flaring

and flaring the sign of the cross.

Jackleen Holton’s poems have been published in the anthologies The Giant Book of Poetry, California Fire & Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology, and Steve Kowit: This Unspeakably Marvelous Life. Honors include Bellingham Review’s 49th Parallel Poetry Award. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Cimarron Review, Dogwood, Poet Lore, Rattle, RHINO Poetry, Salamander, and others.