top of page
Baby Ghost
by Leslie Powell

There’s a stain. It lives in the middle of the sofa cushion. The size of a fifty-cent piece. Obvious. Obnoxious. Yet you’ve lived with it so long, you’ve internalized the darkness. It’s become part of you. But now you’re desperate to fix it, eliminate anything ugly before he arrives and stands for the first time in your living room, noticing everything and will, no doubt, sit on the sofa and look and see and judge and think: ah, she’s unclean, white trash, just like they said she’d be.


It’s an old blemish. Born through blood, pain, and violence. The way everything gets born.


You kneel. Rummage under the kitchen sink. Search for the blue and white can. Don’t forget the sponge. Stand over the dark spot. Shake well. Take aim. Depress the white nozzle. Squirt. Not too close. A stream of foam. Pure. White. Hopeful. Something you’ve never been. Until now.


Walk away. Put on a record. Jazz. Bill Evans.


Give the fizz time to work. Five minutes should do it.


Maybe you can’t make it disappear, but you can hide it. You’re good at hiding. You’ve done that for decades. Trick the eyes of the onlookers. You look normal. Happy even.


Will he look like you? Will he have your eyes?


Blot. Don’t rub. Be gentle. Don’t make it worse. You risk a tear, something permanent you can’t repair. Just like the risk you’ve taken inviting him here. No time to buy new. It’s old and fragile. Like you. Like you feel today anyway, at forty-five.


He already knows you did the worst thing you could do. You went against nature, against the primal maternal urge. Did you have the urge to mother?... to take him home... You did. Forever after. But never mind that. You left the hospital alone __ unencumbered or so he thinks. He doesn’t know you carried him everywhere. Your baby ghost.


Be prepared. The baby’s grown to manhood in your absence. No mother can prepare for that!


Look on the bright side. He’s coming. Nobody forced him. He could’ve have said no. Instead he shocked you. How’s next weekend? Great. Wonderful. Like you’d say no. No time for a new sofa. No time to redecorate. But who cares? You do. You want everything to be perfect.


Keep patting the stain.


He insists on a rental car. No airport reunions, please. Okay. He’ll find his way to you through a dark New England back road.


Turn on the porch light. Sit on the front steps. Listen for the crunch of gravel. Stand. Smile.

Step toward the light.

Leslie Powell writes plays, fiction, nonfiction, essasys and poetry. Her plays have been read and produced throughout the U.S. and in Toronto, Canada. Most recently “Heart-Land: a Lesbian Drama” was selected for National Pride Month in 2022 and presented as a staged-reading for Aria Production in San Antonio, Texas, Her first poem “Stuffed” was published in KYSO zine and selected for ‘Best On The Net’ in the print version. Her fiction “Benediction for a Murderer” has appeared in Zoetrope on line and her essay “Son of Man” appeared in Pandora magazine. Her resume can be found here:

bottom of page