I drop a plastic battleship into the bathtub

but still my daughters come out alive.

Sunday’s not churchday in our family

anymore, but still I make the girls sit in silence

on the floor, banging the sadness

out of orange peels, bending coat hangers

into wings.  I have so much to teach

them about being alive

for not that long: the way apple blossoms

zag through your nightmares,

and how sometimes you can’t even look

at the gears on a can opener.  Girls,

when it’s over, I say, holding a finger

to my lips, not even a whisper; we just

sit around quietly forever. But they are bored

with my terror.  They ram tricycles

full speed into trees and garage

doors, they joust with scissors and foil

swords. They want desperately

for it to be over.  And when I’m not looking

they hold their breath until their faces

turn frigid arctic colors

and time slows down to forever,

and when they revive I say, I hope

you both learned something

valuable about the nearness of death

to waking life, oxygen deprivation

and so on, while they’re gasping

their way back to me, their cheeks

flushing with blood—and I wonder

what it looks like coming back

to life and seeing your father there,

scolding you from the other side

of death.  He’s warning you

not to go where you’ve

already been. And, out of love,

never to go there again.

 

 

This poem originally appeared in our nuclear-powered super-issue, Volume 4!

 

 

 

Gregory Lawless is the author of the  book of poems, I Thought I was New Here.  He teaches in Boston.

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