For the purposes of this poem please assume my tattoos have been possessed by a trickster god.
The woman in front of me gestures
at her pram – do you mind if I? I wave
her off and she hurries out of the queue.
I assume the pram is for the toddler
holding hands with the man in front of her.
(Little stab of anger that he can’t keep an eye
on his own kid’s pram.) Three things happen:
1) the woman in front of the man
deposits a much smaller child
on his shoulder 2) the pram squawks
3) I realise I have parsed this queue
entirely incorrectly and as a result
I have been left in charge of a baby
of indeterminate age. I contemplate swearing
but it might hear me. The man moves
his family forwards, chattering to the toddler
now in his partner’s arms. The gap
between them and the pram is awkward.
I nudge the pram. It squawks again.
It sounds angrier. I try to work out an appropriate
reaction to this situation. Tattoo flashes
under the seat. I say, the fuck? He says, shh,
my darling, Mama’s coming, she’s had
to go the long way round because some klutz
knocked over a roller but she’s coming, shh now.
I say, what if someone sees you?
He says, nobody sees me if I don’t want.
I can hear two crybabies but one of them
is old enough to drink, shh now my sweet,
enough crying, how about – his tail flicks up
in front of the pram. A pair of fat mini-hands
grab at it. The pram giggles. There we go.
And here’s Mama. The woman arrives
holding three boxes of tampons
and a pineapple. She thanks me, doesn’t notice
Tattoo running through her legs back onto my skin.
That night I say, that kid – if we live here
long enough, do you think one day I’ll walk past
this big strapping teenager and, like,
they won’t know and I won’t know, right,
but I’ll have been responsible for five minutes
of their safety in a Lidl once?
Tattoo says, I’d know.
Well, would you tell me?