The children watch TV in the back room under a low roof under which no adult can stand. Their eyeballs flicker in small round rows. Everything glows. The children sit watching, the TV black and white, soundless. Something with guns. Something with long dust-filled landscapes, dry shrubs, dusty clouds blown around their eyes. These are not my dust-bunnies, you think, watchful of the clock. The kids are too many and you are not yet promised to anyone. The bears are also too many—three, as if this were a story—and they enter under your watch; lumber in from winter slumber, head on back. You are passed. You are not to be counted among. You climb the stairs, thighs thick and animal-heavy, glance backwards at the back room, at the many, at the hair, the muscle, jaws moving toward.
Upstairs your father lies on his bed, fingers the clicker, seems elsewhere. The dust-bunnies, you tell him. The bears, you yawn. They amass on the stairs. They mount your fears. TV on in two rooms and eyeballs flicker like small stars under a story-sky. You lock yourself in your child-room, blue shag carpet and mattress-ticking walls. Palm mahogany poster bed, glass-top dresser on which opals broke in winter’s cold. Pass me by, you beg. I am not at hand.
Your father hears your screams and rattles the door. The bears hear your screams and rattle the door. You open the door to the closet to find the window still there. The shade is drawn and this is the wrong room. This is not the window that overlooked the street, the fire in the gutter, the sledders down the icy boulevard. This is not the night the woman held her small son over her head as they crashed, her leg a good brake, into the dark oak. You were kept inside. Your father was supposed to be the hero in this story. The kids in the back room watch TV and the bears, heavy, descend.
Author Discusses Poems