We are all sleeping in the same room. You keep a flashlight, big, beside the bed. There are boards over the door. The phone is disconnected. He shifts in his sleep, his arm bothered by the cast. He sleeps with his eyes open. Even as a child, curled up on the couch. He knew it was not safe here. It is not safe here. It is not safe inside. It is not safe, a thousand miles away. Any wall can have words. O, and what words can say. I know you know, and machines can speak, and there is no escape from dreaming in the dark.
You raise your arm and it cracks open. You open your eyes and the room skitters away. The mice in the hall are stealing, slowly, every piece that remains. A gentleman with a shimmering moustache is waiting just outside the door to take you away. The armies raised to protect are all buried in snow. The Christmas lights flash on and off. Your mother is crying, your mother is sorry. There was nothing any of us could have done. How could we have known? How could we have known?
How could I have known, as you sat crying on my bed, that any word I said could have spelled out the difference from disaster? The bullets I always said I’d take for you are scattered on the floor, and where was I with my gun? Sitting drunk on my living room floor, the heat turned up to 80 and my friends all gone.
O, brother, the dye running from your hair down the shower’s drain, tears on your face. The drain is gone, the hair, and where are you? The child I did not know is wrapped around your broken arm, is stitched across your aching head. The stranger in my mother’s house, this stranger is my father’s son. And I, I, I, my family’s daughter when the breeze blows right. Your blood is in my temples too, and it is lapping at our kitchen floor, catching in the tiles laid by our father’s hands. What a pity that I am such a poor protector. Even I can strike down a man, given the right weapons. Even I, even I, but I did not. And these small hands, these hands like our mother’s, they are no match for the panic in our blood, the voices in our ears, the truth and falsehood in the night.