Labor Day

by Cheryl E. Klein


May 1, 2020

The kids are slipping
and sliding on an inflatable rainbow
our lawn turning to mud.
We have a lawn
and there must always be a pause
for that: our good fortune.

My boss has ideas,
and these too are luxuries
born in her former hunting lodge
in the folds of Laurel Canyon.
She watches mountain lions
on webcams stalk their prey.
She outlines her vision
and speaks of strategy.
I say I’ll try.
Our most famous local lion
crossed two freeways
to get to Griffith Park
and so maybe she believes
in exceptionalism
as much as conservation.

The kids chant their demands
like labor activists
and I suppose that makes me management
delivering Jell-O in plastic bowls
shaky and blood red.

I was pregnant once
but never went into labor.
The years between that unbeating
ultrasound and eventual adoption
created a wild beast in me.
It crossed freeways. It looked back
at the rushing cars and saw
what might have happened.

Our son has formed a union
with the neighbor kids
whose parents are out of work.
The crunch of big-wheel tires
on concrete is the sound of summer.
My boss wants to know
why I am not on top of things.
But it is April, the weather
falsely warm, school falsely canceled.

Our tortoiseshell cat brings roaches
through the dog door at night
watches their antennae twitch
bats them with a curled paw.

Each day I make a list with two sections:
work and life. The kids rule the driveway
between our homes, the border
unenforceable but fraught.
The school opens
only to give out the free lunches
now stacked in orange plastic boxes
on the neighbors’’ kitchen table.

Pfizer donated medication
when our famous mountain lion turned
up pocked with mange. McDonald’s
is donating $250 million
to Black communities
and health care workers.
What is a donation?
What is labor?

My son says, “Mommy, there’s a cockroach”
and I tell him his other mom will get it.
Last night she cut his hair in the kitchen
and nicked his ear. She applied a band-aid
before he saw the blood.
If there had been a mirror
he would have screamed.



Cheryl E. Klein’s column, “Hold it Lightly,” appears monthly(ish) in MUTHA. She is the author of a story collection, The Commuters (City Works Press), and a novel, Lilac Mines (Manic D Press). Her stories and essays have appeared in The Normal School, Blunderbuss, Entropy, Literary Mama, and several anthologies. Her work has been honored by the MacDowell Colony and the Center for Cultural Innovation. By day, she works for the youth writing nonprofit 826LA. Surekha spent her formative years in the beautiful hills of Nilgiris before she moved to her hometown, Thalassery, to pursue a career in fine art. Her works have been in many exhibitions across India, and most recently to “Revived Emotions,” an international exhibition at Ratchademnoen Contemporary Art Centre, Bangkok. She served as the head designer for a leading Kerala based jewelery chain for 17 years, leaving behind an oeuvre of more than 3000 designs. Painting has always been her first love, exploring the moods of nature, and finding shades, colours, tones and textures in landscapes, especially focusing on her memories of Thalassery and Nilgiris.    

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