Baby Byron didn’t yet have language,
so he twisted and contorted
his face into a mask, a distressed aria
sounding his discomfort.
That it was existential, and not hunger, thirst,
tiredness, or physical pain, meant nothing
to him. Without language
as a stingy placeholder, the word Existential
was no more than a whiff of flatulence,
or evil wind stirring the mobile
of planets and stars above his head,
that he gawked at night after night,
amused by their rotation and melody.
He was, lately, gripped with an urge
to toddle from point A to B,
two-legged, as he had seen Baby Blake do.
Baby Blake, angel-locked, always smelling
of sour milk and dandelions,
and gurgling verses that brushed against
Baby Byron’s soft cheek like so many
wet feathers. Baby Wordsworth, he was a mouthful,
and he’d randomly strike Baby Byron on the head
with that rattly club he carried around.
Baby Wordsworth’s fierce tactics
could bring hot to Baby Byron’s face,
and water, stinging, slashed
pink on pink. If Baby Byron could
have found the words and made them
obey his tongue, he might have
expressed his utter contempt
not only for Baby Blake and Baby Wordsworth,
but also for the imbecilic gestures
which he made, seemingly involuntarily.
There was a palsied, halting, jilted
quality to the things deep inside him
from which he demanded
grace and fluency.
Yet, despite his yearning, he shit himself.
Needed a running tap
of breast from which to draw.
If left on his back, as he frequently was
(planets, stars, round and round,
again and again, oh god, nausea)
he’d waggle his limbs
like an epileptic beetle.
Is this all there is, Baby Byron pondered,
not in words or language, but more of a pressure
just below his navel. Terror, awe,
and a mutable series of paroxysms?
Through the vertical slats, Baby Byron
could hear Baby Blake reciting an ode.
Or choking on a piece of small hard plastic.
It was hard to interpret Baby Blake.
Baby Byron shifted his attention
to the cosmic mobile. For the first time,
he noticed that one of the stars
was slightly darker than the others, a stain
setting it apart as unique. Pleased with his discovery,
Baby Byron claimed the dark star as his own,
his short reach
an awful row
and first word away.