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For Not Permitting a Man’s Heart To Be Taken from Him

In a nightmare I find my father’s captain

At the kitchen table, hunched over,

Big slobbery bites in the middle

Of the night. His beard glows orange

 

Like the cereal. He stares

At the box, mesmerized by coupons.

Milk dribbles out the left of his mouth.

He does not invite me to sit down.

 

I twist the hem of my white nightgown harder

And do not speak. He knows the question.

“I left your father,” the nightmare says,

“Because he will not leave the bed

 

And I am hungry.” More crunch,

More slobber. Crumbs glitter his beard.

A spill of milk edges closer to my bare feet.

He smells like a fish wiggling off a hook.

 

“Why, little girl, do you run away in moon-lit pajamas?

Even the cool pavement does not wake you.”

The nightmare wipes his lips with the back

Of his hand, slaps his knee. Half of me

 

Leaps into his lap.

I want to snatch the cereal away.

But the one leg standing can only hop.

An eye watches the other.

 

You there in his body, I command to obey.

The sitting half climbs up the beard,

Peers into cave eyes. Asks: “Do your big arms

Keep him in bed all day?”