First Night Sled—Delaware Park

By Karen Sands O’Connor

Pink-cheeked Hanna Anderssons

Brothers with shark sleds

aiming straight

for the mud

Tiny wide-eyed newbies

stiff with fear

or snowsuits

urged on by the family dog

and a broken harness

Dads on their phones

watching the game

six-pack behind the tree

surprised by the sight

of the progeny dripping

with snow and snot

and sometimes, tears

Mothers bundled up

in tomorrow’s worries

checking purse or watch

for the complex calculation

a surface-to-air ratio

of hot chocolate

or cold cheeks

to Sunday afternoon

All these are gone,

and not yet are the secret

teen agents in disguise

on their siblings’ sleds


or devil-may-caring


or crushing

snugly hidden

by the night

She has been waiting

for her turn on the edge

for that in-between age

an empty space and fear

foretold by signs:

a lost red mitten waving

from a tree’s low branches

a black hole beneath a


Alone on the hill

The laugh then the spill

A girl on a hill


KAREN SANDS O’CONNOR is associate professor of English at Buffalo State College, where she specializes in children’s literature, 20th century British literature and literary criticism.

Her books include “Soon Come Home to This Island: West Indians in Children’s Literature” (Routledge, 2007) and (with co-author Marietta Frank) “Back in the Spaceship Again: Juvenile Science Fiction Series Since 1945” (Greenwood Press, 1999).