“For years, I thought I hated children’s laughter.
I had no idea I was just hungry.”
—Healthy Choice ad
No children of my own, I thought
they all laughed that way—
teasing, cruel. Some poor scapegoat
forced to ingest god knows what.
Cleaning the dormitories, scrubbing
the blood from the shower walls,
my stomach contracts like a fist
around a blank coin.
Tomorrow, the soles of the state
inspector’s shoes will squeak
against spit-shiny floors.
He’ll hear nothing else. But today
I move backwards down the corridor
with the mop steering from side to side,
its wet locks dragging
an endless river of filth.