I dove into the river of angry dreams
you were dreaming
you tapped your fingers against my ribs
and your feet were dead
wrapped in the stained white windings
of your sweat damp sheets
I held my breath against your telling
of those aching stories
of girls you’d taken in the back of rocking vans
parked beside their husbands’ pickups
in dry fields broad daylight
I knew I’d have to breathe before morning
I made a list on my fingers
of people who might die before me
I had to count myself on each thumb
if I should be the one to die in tonight’s silence
remember the pain of mourning you
I’ll be saved
I’d hoped you’d ask, daughter. About my outlaw
boyfriend. No, he wasn’t your father. For that I chose
a steady man. And he’s no one you’ve met.
But I’m pleased you’ve wondered. Pleased you’ve taken
out that little notebook with the little gold pen
to record the story you expect I’ll tell. Well, yes
I did look him up after all these years. Dull evening stretching
in front of me. Home alone. And he was in jail.
On four counts of murder. But it wasn’t what you’d think.
He was innocent. And I never went back to him
after the second time he struck me. Never gave him
the chance for that third strike. He’d be out.
Pediatrician Kelley White worked in inner city Philadelphia and now works in rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in journals including Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her most recent books are TOXIC ENVIRONMENT (Boston Poet Press) and TWO BIRDS IN FLAME (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.