My mother is a mother bear, defender
of all children everywhere
from all danger everywhere, including
their own mediocre parents. Mom taught me
never to drive away
until I see my classmate disappear
safely into his front door.
(Often some locked-out kid
would come over to scarf down my after-school snacks
and my mom's attention
and leave several messages
on his mom's answering machine.)

Maybe that's why it's so hard for me
to let go. I need to know
people are safe, fed, home. I need to know
someone adores them beyond reason. I need to know
someone would die for them.
It's not my responsibility. By all rights
I should be sleeping soundly.

I'm in one of those movies
where by some contrived turn of events
an unqualified adult gets stuck
caring for a child—except
those are comedies. Everyone learns
a valuable lesson and everyone receives
exactly what they need. In the real world
there's nothing funny about a child
stranded outside her own home,
outside her mother's affection,
ringing the doorbell,
trying every door and window.
There's nothing funny about me
in a running car,
foot on the brake,
eye on the clock,
whispering, "Come on,
be someone else's problem."

Maybe someday—at long last—
an adult will arrive
to receive our burdens and hold us
in her cosmic mama bear hug,
welcoming us as her own.
Mama, if you're out there, please
come soon. Until then
I'll be here
in the driveway,
heart clenched,
watching,
swearing,
caring.