What Seemed Like Safe Darkness
Naomi Thiers

I heard shuffling in the middle of the dark,
creaking, a light flip,
a sound like dragging footsteps down the hall.

The bathroom was hot-lit but silent,
your twin bed vacant in your grey room
as if cast off.  But you still live here. You’re 12,
too young for insomnia. Sleep

has been your place of peace. I felt
down the dark hall, found you hunched
on the couch, half-folded as if lifted

and placed there. Not weeping, not slate-eyed,
just sleeping, your jaw relaxed,
your cheek rising in rhythm. I remembered
the warm, pear smoothness of your face before

all the fragile self-holding twisted it.
Your quick grin and unbridled snore--
everything that seemed easy, that I should have memorized.

Thinking of that old ease, I held you
as I shook you awake:  “…sleepwalking, Honeygirl,
and you’re almost falling off—”
You screamed at my chin, “Get AWAY!”

and howled and hit at me, until I yelled too,
finally threatened, “You know the neighbors will come over.”
So we silenced.  You shuffled back to bed.
I stayed in the shadowed living room, thinking
how I can quiet but not calm you now,
and thinking what I wish I could tell you
(although my shame is that you already know):

That I’m daily as jolted as you were on that couch,
that I sleepwalked here through what seemed like safe darkness
and I don’t know where I am.

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