Old Sleeping Rituals
Most of the time, I felt terror
in my small chest; it possessed
me in my pink bedroom,
pursued me on staircases.
Looking back, it is amusing
that I never slept in my own cast iron bed
though my father tried nightly to coax me with warm milk
into an insecure sleep.
I would always rather sleep
in the extra bed in my brother’s room
or even in a Barney sleeping bag
outside my parents’ bedroom door.
Yes, I slept on the floor, for
strange shadows loomed
across the walls of my room.
Shadows of cars passing outside my window
mocked me, chased me across the hall
or upstairs, where another’s presence
was calming enough.
Yes, I slept rough.
And before permitting me
to give into my exhaustion,
my brother quizzed me
on the names of basketball players
when I just wanted to curl up in the layers
of blue sheets and fade into a dream.
And I worried my father would find me
before his door, lift me up, ignore
my cries and return me to my cold bed.