December 3, 2020

Tom C. Hunley

I NEVER PUSHED MY DAUGHTER

in a stroller through the park.
I never got lost in a trance
as the trees seemed to listen as she

tried out sounds in hopes
of inventing words

for the warm feeling
of a full belly, a pink blanket

and for the first time
a song rocking her

to sleep. Instead I read
an online profile that said

she loved pets and purple
and singing and acting and
had hurts that I would have

to enter, scars like ravenous
mouths I couldn’t escape

if I got close to her like
entering a haunted house
with ghosts in it who

don’t mind being dead but
want me to feel what they felt.

I never held her on my shoulders
up to the monkey bars
giggling, faux afraid of falling.

No, I got her after fire
got her, burned everything
she knew. I could see it

in her eyes. I felt like paper,
like if I touched her it would
torch me, but I told her

this would go away and come back
like traces of lightning bugs
growing fainter and more distant.

I watched Instant Family with her
over and over but only after

she had lived through scenes
she wasn’t old enough
to see in movies.

I never tossed her
into the air, laughing,
sure I’d catch her

and if we played tag
a rolling boulder was it
and it wanted to flatten us

and if we played
hide-and-go-seek
we each hid in the darkness

inside of ourselves, neither
of us sure we’d ever
find our way out.

from Adjusting to the Lights
2020 Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner

__________

Tom C. Hunley: “I started writing poetry at age eighteen after reading ‘In the Desert’ by Stephen Crane. I have now devoted more than 30 years to a study of the delicious bitterness of my heart.” (web)

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