Helpless Observer

by Leah Twitchell

As the baby rolled and tumbled
Down a full flight of stairs,
Slow motion kicked in
And what took seconds seemed like years.

I went deaf until she stopped
On the concrete below —
Then I skidded in socks
Down the wooden staircase.

The baby was crying and fine,
I handed her to the father.

I thought, this wouldn’t have happened
If my mom had been there, protector of babies.
But it was our first Christmas without her.

I despised the little ones that year.

No one knew it had been me who left the gate unlatched,
Buzzed and careless.

I was sick in my stomach,
having stood there as a witness
Without the foresight or power to stop it.