By Cooper Bennett Burt

I am not a toddler, I am a baby.
Why? I think I would rather be
a toddler, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Nathan
is starting a drawing. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a snack," he
says. I snack; we snack. I look
up. He has pirates in it.
"Yes, it needed pirates there."
"Oh." I go and the minutes go by
and I drop in again. The drawing
is going on, and I go, and the minutes
go by. I drop in. The drawing is
finished. Where's pirates?
All that's left is just
letters. "It was too much," Nathan says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a foodstuff: beans. I drop a handful
of beans. Pretty soon it is a whole
mess of beans, on the floor.
Then another bean. There should be
so much more, not of beans, of
words, of how very smeared with food I am,
and life. Days go by. It is even in
pants, I am a real baby. My lunch
is finished and I haven't mentioned
pirates yet. It's twelve smears of food, I call
it MMMMMMM. And one day in Nathan's bedroom
I see Nathan's drawing, called PIRATES.

Originally Published: April 25th, 2011

Stephanie (also Steph; formerly Stephen) Burt is a poet, literary critic, and professor. In 2012, the New York Times called Burt “one of the most influential poetry critics of [her] generation.” Burt grew up around Washington, DC and earned a BA from Harvard and PhD from Yale. She has published four collections of poems: Advice...