There is a holiness to exhaustion
is what I keep telling myself,
filling out the form so my TA gets paid
then making copies of it on the hot
and heaving machine, writing
Strong start! on a pretty bad poem.
And then the children: the baby’s
mouth opening, going for the breast,
the girl’s hair to wash tonight
and then comb so painstakingly
in the tub while conditioner drips
in slick globs onto her shoulders,
while her discipline chart flaps in the air
conditioner at school, taped
to a filing cabinet, longing for stickers.
My heart is so giant this evening,
like one of those moons so full
and beautiful and terrifying
if you see it when you’re getting out
of the car you have to go inside the house
and make someone else come out
and see it for themselves. I want every-
thing, I admit. I want yes of course
and I want it all the time. I want
a clean heart. I want the children
to sleep and the drought
to end. I want the rain to come
down—It’s supposed to monsoon
is what Naomi said, driving away
this morning, and she was right,
as usual. It’s monsooning. Still,
I want more. Even as the streets
are washed clean and then begin
to flood. Even though the man
came again today to check the rat traps
and said he bet we’d catch the rat
within 24 hours. We still haven’t caught
the rat, so I’m working at the table
with my legs folded up beneath me.
I want to know what is holy—
I do. But first I want the rat to die.
I am thirsty for that death
and will drink deeply of that victory,
the thwack of the trap’s hard plastic jaw,
I will rush to see the evidence no matter
how gruesome, leaning my body over
the washing machine to see the thing
crushed there, much smaller
than I’d imagined it’d be,
the strawberry large in its mouth.

More by Carrie Fountain

Time to be the fine line of light

between the blind and the sill, nothing
really. There are so many things
 
that destroy. To think solely of them
is as foolish and expedient as not 
 
thinking of them at all. All I want 
is to be the river though I return 
 
again and again to the clouds. 
All I want is to stop beginning sentences 
 
with All I want. No—no really all
I want is this morning: my daughter 
 
and my son saying “Da!” back and forth 
over breakfast, cracking each other up 
 
while eating peanut butter toast 
and raspberries, making a place for 
 
the two of them I will, eventually,
no longer be allowed to enter. Time to be 
 
the fine line. Time to practice being 
the line. And then maybe the darkness. 
 

Will You?

When, at the end, the children wanted 
to add glitter to their valentines, I said no. 

I said nope, no, no glitter, and then, 
when they started to fuss, I found myself 

saying something my brother’s football coach 
used to bark from the sidelines when one 

of his players showed signs of being 
human: oh come on now, suck it up. 

That’s what I said to my children. 
Suck what up? my daughter asked, 

and, because she is so young, I told her 
I didn’t know and never mind, and she took 

that for an answer. My children are so young 
when I turn off the radio as the news turns 

to counting the dead or naming the act, 
they aren’t even suspicious. My children 

are so young they cannot imagine a world 
like the one they live in. Their God is still 

a real God, a whole God, a God made wholly 
of actions. And I think they think I work 

for that God. And I know they will someday soon 
see everything and they will know about 

everything and they will no longer take 
never mind for an answer. The valentines 

would’ve been better with glitter, and my son 
hurt himself on an envelope, and then, much 

later, when we were eating dinner, my daughter 
realized she’d forgotten one of the three 

Henrys in her class. How can there be three Henrys 
in one class? I said, and she said, Because there are. 

And so, before bed we took everything out 
again—paper and pens and stamps and scissors—

and she sat at the table with her freshly washed hair 
parted smartly down the middle and wrote 

WILL YOU BE MINE, HENRY T.? and she did it 
so carefully, I could hardly stand to watch.