First tummy bug

Something different about his cry
two wide eyes in the dark
the tang of sick scratching the air.

Stripped off in the bathroom
his sticky blond hair at odds with the night
sleepy cheeks thrown wide awake

and his heart, like a mouse
or smaller, and just as quiet
flip-flopping somewhere

pumping his life to fingers, toes
—such a short journey
unswaddled by jackets and sweatshirts

sneakers and jeans—
tonight there is just the slope of his chest
the slump of a puku

a smooth little bottom standing clutched and clean
and his fluttering heart
silent, naked and sweet with sick

beating above a puddle of pyjamas
as he waits while I check the shower
against the strange new cold.

First published in takahē