Two Poems from Alisha Erin Hillam

The Reason I Haven’t Paid the Bills

Three days ago, the baby learned to crawl. For ten months,
she sat—sometimes wriggled—content to be handed
the delicacies of life—a Cheerio, a red and blue rattle,
a small, fuzzy duck.
But now she is mobile, online, ready to hit the road,

her stiff arms goose stepping, cartilaginous kneecaps
creeping just behind. Just as the Mobility Switch
has been activated, so too has the Forbidden Fruit Toggle,
and she happily plunks her way from newfound freedom
to low-lying paperbacks, un-hung wedding photos, intoxicatingly flat, beige electrical
outlets, small, filling trashcans: a circus of discoverable edibles.

At the electrical outlets I redirect her: try a Pudgy book,
a bead maze, a wooden spoon, the now-mundane
toys of childhood that reset her (temporary) attention,
not unlike my own redirection: Look!
the unpaid bills,
the un-shoveled driveway,
the unthawed dinner in the freezer that is stick stick sticking, sticking with a chicken,
the unfolded laundry you’ve neglected for your poems
(convinced yet?).
The wooden spoon is a poor substitute for curiosity,

unless it is wielded on the glass-topped coffee table,
on Mommy’s ankle bone. It is a tug-of-war we will play until evening,
when I will slip her into frog pajamas as her muscles strain
to peek around me, to push against me
as I rock her. At last she will acquiesce,
dropping her small heavy head onto the bone of my shoulder,

and I will lay her down, half wrapped
in an infant’s swaddle, eyes slitted shut, her lollipop thumb lulling
her to sleep: suck suck suck,
suck suck suck.

Natural Scientists

How high can we throw the gold necklace before
it’s tangled in the tree? How many maple leaves
do we eat before we decide not to try again?

How fast do we have to be to outrun the rubber
band gun? How long can we chase before our father
intervenes? Will he trip on the Barbie shoes scattered

down the stairs? Our kitchen always smelled of apricots,
the living room of folded newspapers, and at every given
chance, we were conducting important research. Does sour

cream and sprinkles taste like ice cream? Can playing
Queen and Servant clean a room? I reexamine
these hypotheses from an office piled with exotic pest

alerts, and wonder if anyone found the marzipan hidden
in the mailbox Christmas ornament, or if the papier-mâché
lighting bolt is still hanging—we were sure it caused

the thunderstorm that killed the generator. Now my research
is on firewood, and I add no one supports spraying
firewood for insects
to my list of findings—just below

every shade of green is somewhere on a summer farm,
and no one thinks it’s funny when your sister handcuffs herself
to your bed and you leave for dinner without letting her go.

Alisha Erin Hillam is an Indiana native, currently living outside Indianapolis with her husband and daughter. She is the recipient of several literary awards from Purdue University and her work has appeared in Brigham Young University’s Inscape and in decomP.