The Forest, 2003

The Forest, 2003



Tuesday night. My daughter wakes, growling,

her body covered in thick fur, free of light

like hills seen from a distance.


whether to pet her head or pin her down

to drag a razor inch by inch, I sit on the bed and pray

for the bed to hold us. A sugared rot


hovers, a smell that shadows her

downstairs in the morning. No dream,

                                                                though dreams don't

stink of berries smashed into the ground.


Her hands rake the fur.

                                            I ask if it hurts

and she says yes, she wants to go swimming.

So I buckle her in the van and drive away from town.


I could go down to the boat dock and off

without braking at the lurch,

                                                but the river's too shallow,

even in dreams. There are many ways to be let down:

a salesman with a case full of soles,

a tepid bath, a padded bra.


Botched baptism, maybe that’s what went wrong.

No—each day I make a prayer to make it
to the next day.

                            What could be safer or less insolent?


In the mirror, her wet eye, a silver flicker flips,

sleep-submerged. Dear God.

                                                      Just because you didn’t

mean to doesn't make us not your fault, 

both of us, breathing like we're in hiding—


I buried my hair in the yard when she first kicked

inside me like a fear, soaped her mouth out
for her own good

                                   when she ate a fly from the window casement,

                                                   did all this and more—


Stop here, she says, and climbs out of the van,

crawls beneath until only overripe eyes.

It's not summer. No one else on the road

but the pine trees,

                                  bare from the waist down.


I always thought they were ugly

then one day I didn't.
I handled the change on my own.