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I. 1978

Elizabeth Taylor knelt down
locked violet eyes to my blue
and declared me a beautiful child
my family was visiting the Smithsonian
I was three years old
clambering up the bronze dinosaur sculptures
worn shiny smooth by children from around the world
there was freeze-dried ice cream at the Air & Space Museum
and a Mercury capsule John Glenn plummeted in
to splashdown in the Atlantic

II. 2010

I took you to Air & Space before we understood
crowds and loud noises set you off
you glued yourself to a bench with your 3-year-old arms crossed
you did not care about Skylab or Soyuz
you did not want to go to space
you did not like the chalky dust purporting to be ice cream
in your little foil package
you sat and screamed in the cathedral-ceilinged atrium
and all the other families turned their heads
I hadn’t learned to ignore them yet

III. 2021

Now of course I know
astronaut ice cream was only made for gift shops
it wasn’t suitable for space
Liz Taylor was downtown that day specifically to kiss babies
for her husband’s Senate campaign
Still, parenting you is rocketing you into orbit
then navigating you back with math and science
heat shield popping & igniting
pulling hand over hand an invisible tensile thread
to bring you safely home

Erica A. Fletcher works in biomedical research in Boston. Her poems have been published in Green Ink Poetry, Sky Island Journal, Hawk and Whippoorwill, Uppagus, Silkworm, and The Writers’ Cafe Magazine. She has played in the rock band Nurse & Soldier since 1997. She can sometimes be found on Twitter at @ericafletcher.

© 2022, Erica A. Fletcher 

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