The Scream In The Night


The Niece
I am thirsty, so I go
To the dark kitchen and
Ice a cup by the light of the fridge.
I gaze at the open sink window
And think how strange it still is to me
That they leave the windows open at night.
And portentous.
Then I turn to close the fridge door
And see my fears have come true –
A tall, hairy man looming.
I scream and drop my iridescent
Rainbow, but mainly green, juice
Glass on the floor where it shatters
Louder than one glass really should
On the terra cotta tile.
I fall to the floor.

The Son
It’s past midnight and I’m
Reading comparative politics,
The intro chapter. I see a light in
The kitchen and conclude,
Based on a lifetime of experience,
That Dad is engaged in one of his
(Mom calls them harebrained)
So I go to say goodnight.
Rounding the corner, a pale face
In the fridge-light
Definitely not Dad
Looks up at me with
Stark terror. A scream and breaking glass
Tell me
I miscalculated something somewhere.

The Mother
My alarm went off at 5:30 this morning –
A Saturday no less! –
So by 12:45 a.m. I am on my stomach
On cool cotton sheets,
One leg out, in that first and sweetest phase of
What Bertie calls ‘the dreamless.’
Which comes first, the shatter or the scream?
Philosophers can debate that. It doesn’t
Matter really.
Together they function as a catalyst in an
Adrenal gland experiment. And the news is
‘Your gland is a medical marvel!’
Trembling and confused in the kitchen doorway,
Not even awake,
Night hair bun bobbling this way
And that, I am conscious of someone more confused
Behind me
Garbling something about the vacuum cleaner.

The Father
It makes perfect sense to me,
A preacher with a cold on a Saturday night,
To take four teaspoons of an out-of-date cough medicine
With hydrocodone.
At 12:45 I am inert; the only project I am doing is
Somehow the scream and the shatter pierce the
Opiate coma,
And I stagger up, man of the house, to confront
The Intruder I have always known would come.
I declare (or think I do) an immediate need to
And the world tilts sideways, both ways.
I know I better lie down, and the bathroom floor
Seems like, yes, ummhmm.
On it I flail and make as much racket as the original
Shattered cup,
Because, you see,
I am longer than the bathroom floor, and
The world is rocking like a Mammy on a rocking chair.
One clear thought: the tile is cold. Bed.
So I crawl and make it partially up, legs hanging off,
Down near the foot of the bed.
And there I lie where my wife of 28 years knows
To leave me alone.

The Daughter
(On the way to church)
Wait, what happened?


Sweet Olive and Her Outlaw Wind

Is it just my sweet olive,
Or is yours, too,
Perfuming the winds
That ride leaf-back
Over the smilaxed fence,
Onto the back porch,
Where we hold cups and talk?
There she breathes into our casual circle
Her bewitchery: the memory
Of Louisiana in autumn,
Of gold and green and brown and gray,
Of chill and woodsmoke,
Secret hiding places, long vesper views
Down blue alleys of pine and oak,
Splinter of the dying season underfoot,
Deep breaths,
Flannel, winter coming.
And I forget what I was saying.

All that evocative power in
Spindly, amber beads
That fall apart when I harvest,
And withhold their glory
When I get too close;
Sweet Olive, that minx,
Gives essentially,
Prodigally to an outlaw wind.