4/28/81: Mobile, Alabama
Stephen Gardner

At night the curtains blow in like arms
To wrap me in motel gauze made soft
By passing cars and streetlamps. The frayed hems
Trace across my lashes, a mating of spiders
In ivory light. Last night I had a lingering
Dream. Tonight I cannot sleep at all.
When the TV dulled to hiss and snow
I saw my father's face, connecting the dots,
Roll down the screen. He never lost that boyish
Grin, big teeth and thin lips; then his eyebrows
And bald top slid to hiss again. The secret,
I heard him say, don't tell the secret
To anyone. Late-born and only child, I swear
I'll never tell. If you'll tell me, old man,
If you'll tell me. And then a northbound truck
Was all I heard, its headlights on the curve
Cutting through the curtain's web into the room.
I pushed the button off and bounced on the springs.
We never lose our hair like men. Eyebrows, 
Though, they thicken before they fall away.
Now mine are growing thin. My smile is firm
But never was as innocent as his. I take
What arms I care to hold, or need. That's all.
Receive, receive is what I do.
Originally published in The Devil's Millhopper
and This Book Is For Eva (Palanquin Press)

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