Till The Jack-In-The-Boxes Pop All Around Us - David Henson

Sometimes she wanders away
from the facility.
This time she makes it
to a department store
where I find her with red
streaks down her wrinkled cheeks
and around her mouth,
sobbing for her mother.

A man who must
be the manager barges past me
to the makeup counter, takes her hand,
pries loose the lipstick,
and asks if she belongs to anyone.

Sweet child, let me
lead you the long way through the store.

We’ll loop to the candy and squander ourselves
on taffy kisses and licorice whips.
We’ll hunch behind hedgerows of hanging coats
as mannequins in blue, vested suits
cry for help in squeaky voices,
and startled shoppers drop their bags.

Hand-in-hand we’ll skip
past dressing mirrors,
our images flickering
like an old-time movie.

We’ll hide with the toys
in the dimmest, quiet aisle
till the jack-in-the-boxes pop all around us
and the giant, stuffed bear cradles you in it arms.

First published in Pikestaff Forum, #7, Spring, 1986

David Henson and his wife have lived in Belgium and Hong Kong over the years and now reside in Illinois, USA with their dog, who loves to take them for walks in the woods. After retiring, David learned to play piano, focusing on boogie woogie and classical styles (managing to get tennis elbow from practicing the finale of In The Hall of the Mountain King). He then returned to writing, which he’d put on the back shelf after crafting poetry in his younger years. Today, he writes poetry, microfictions and short stories. His work has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and has appeared in various print and online journals, including Front Porch Review. His website is http://writings217.wordpress.com. His Twitter is @annalou8.