Skeletal Lullaby

For all the children who held their mother’s milk
inside their cheeks and waited for it to turn into teeth

              or those who steamed it into a twilight fog
              and sat naked in the center of the kitchenette

thumb pressed against the roof of their mouths,
blinking so quickly      they wonder if they ever even woke.

And there you are,
back in your mother’s arms again:

              the yellow patchwork of the linen
              severed through with sunlight,

and the hinge of the bedroom door dressed
in a cochlea of broken shells.

              Your only rattle the sound a lozenge makes
              as it clangs against the teeth in your mother’s mouth,

singing skeletal lullaby, let me in.

There are inevitable ends we all must face.

Here are mine:
The sun is circling back.
It will reach this house by morning.
I will put my ear to my mother’s mouth and hear the ocean.
She will have had her thumb on my cheek for hours,
              absently tracing the tears I never thought
              I would cry.


Alex Greenberg is a 16-year old poet whose work can be found or is forthcoming in: The Cortland Review, The Florida Review, Grist, Heron Tree, and Spinning Jenny, among others. Greenberg was the recipient of the 2014 Adirondack Review Poetry Prize and the 2014 Critical Pass Review Junior Poets Prize, and was a finalist for the Lascaux Review Poetry Prize and the Hippocrates Young Poets Award. He hosts a poetry program for patients suffering from dementia at the Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn and attends the Ethical Culture Fieldston School where is the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Fieldston News.