Summer 03


When the Babies Read The Book of the Dead




We can’t stop them. We say, "Babies, don't turn the page." But they try to sound out every word, gum each corner until it’s soft and sticky. We say, “Babies, look here—Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, a monarch butterfly wafting over a bed of red and white petunias.” The babies ignore us. They huddle together, drool across the cover. They like the pictures best—trees, man and shaggy dog together, the long, rocky trek against time. We try to distract the babies, tickle their round cherry chins, but they’re relentless. Their fingers, eyes, mouths, every bit of them so little but relentless. Sometimes we think the babies might not be ours. We could ask them, but we’re afraid. The babies don’t sleep at night. We hear them rocking upstairs beneath the crib, the book held between them like another prayer. We don’t know who to call.


Mary A. Koncel is a long-time devotee of the prose poem. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including The Massachusetts Review, Denver Quarterly, The Journal, The Prose Poem: An International Journal, and No Boundaries: Prose Poems by 24 American Poets. She was a recipient of a fellowship in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. In 1999, Quale Press published her chapbook, Closer to Day. Her full-length collection of prose poems, You Can Tell the Horse Anything, is forthcoming from Tupelo Press.