I fall awake alone. Outside,
nocturnal rain ascends.

Alarms rage, summoning a thief
who hurries to the store,
unpacks his duffel sack,
replaces items on the shelf.

Morning. The plane dispenses you.
We enfold each other,
celebrating your undeparture.
Tears scroll up our cheeks,
nestle into ducts.

Last night we wake
sweat-soaked and sated,
breathe flame to candlewick
and fuse, hips coaxing sheets
to smoothness.

Years ago, our meeting is unmade.
My life hurries back into ignorance,
days spent unrolling snowballs,
being chased by the ice cream truck,
gathering bread spat by ducks
beside a cool lake.

We will never disentangle
at the baggage check.
You won’t be tugged from me
by announcements,
gates, corridors, customs.

I am three years old.
I urge spilled milk into a jug,
right it on the table.
My mother’s alarmed eyes
flash calm.

Outside, a robin
cocks her head,
feeds worms
to the hungry soil.

Nesting Doll

A meaningless toy, it brought nightmares
that sent her shrieking into wakefulness,
summoning us or crying, simply, “Smaller!”
We’d flick off the TV and sprint upstairs
and find her shaking in her thin nightdress
soaked through with perspiration, stained with pee
or worse; and she would sob and shake and holler,
bury her face in stalwart teddy bears,
seek comfort from a toy in toys. I guess
we should have figured out the source. A father’s
job, knowing his child. I ought to be
clairvoyant of the germ causing it all,
the thing my daughter dreaded she might see:
the shape inside the doll inside the doll.

Peter Norman is the author of At the Gates of the Theme Park, now available from Mansfield Press.

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