Darcie Dennigan

Oil Spill Baby

Here is our cold kettle
and here is our baby with a ribbon of crude round his rattle

We cannot keep the windows down even in winter
lest he, rebreathing his own volatile breath, cancers himself

We are cold with the windows open but we cannot light the oven
for his cries are muddy, murk pours from his ducts, hazardous, how always-crying he is

He is always crying and the oily drops are staining his penguin sweater but we need the money
and I must to my job at the fire station now, now I must leave him

Now I must leave him too says his father the fire salesman in the darkness flickering
His fingertips are flint and steel are his palms but his lips are lips

We kissed, the crickets twitched. They are slower since the spill
(There was their slow-twitch song, there was the fire salesman flickering)

Now he is lifting his hand, he is making for the baby a charcoal sketch on the wall in farewell
for the fire salesman can never touch his oil spill child

And here now is our tindrous-skinned being sobbing particulate matter
You cannot tell a child he has no right to cry

Stop please, sweet, look how you leak petroleum
(He was never supposed to cry) Don’t cry! I wish you could cry but my hands are tied

very tightly—my hands are a strapped bundle of kindling
For that reason, for that my fingers are made of scratch-branches

I have never been able to hold him

When the baby is happy his eyes fume
That is dangerous too, my little human firewood, my child who reeks of truckstop

There is another world, another, another. Somewheres we have never traveled
One of the somewheres: a tundra

so cold and dark
that we, the baby, fire salesman and me, might all shiver together without making a spark

(But there was only here, our little hazmat house
with the baby crawling back and forth)

It is a small house. The crawling oil spill baby
looks like a boat rocking on the sea. The sea!

No, it is not the sea, it is the baby gurgling hydrocarbons, the aromatic ones
We are by the door. The baby staring at us, we at him

We stare in a plain, calm way
Our eyes, across each other’s surfaces, skim

Usually we’re not allowed to look at each other
Even stares as far away as stars might burn

(Was there a difference between burn and bleach
I ask because for a second we all three went all white)

Then one of us blinks. The camera’s flash gone off
(For one minute we were all very bright. We were lovers of light)


That was the picture I put in the frame
That was the picture I saved in the blaze

Darcie Dennigan is the author of Madame X, Dept of Ephebic Dreamery, and Corinna A-Maying the Apocalypse.