Emily Light


A pixelated sign hangs fresh from the printer,
warm to the touch, smearable:
Please do not leave children unattended,
with a thick black X through a shadow child,
like the girl next to me on the waiting room bench.
What defines a child, especially in a place like this
outpatient psychiatric center?
The man playing a Nintendo DS?
The pill-bloated woman pulling at her face?
A receptionist calls out a name—
it isn’t mine or the girl’s.
What name calls her?
The sign’s shadow child covers its eyes
as though to blind itself to the girl
waiting alone among adults
who amble obscure and untethered,
trying to discover some corner of the world marked with an X
like fingers crossed, or hands held tight.

Emily Light

has contributed poetry to Inch, Lake Effect, Midway Journal, Paterson Literary Review, and other magazines. She teaches English and lives in Boonton, New Jersey, with her husband and son.