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.

More by Carrie Fountain

First

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.

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. 
 

Related Poems

The Imprint

We will count on these walls
             to whisper
                           our resumes 
to the strangers who take up
             the work of these rooms,
forwarding them
             past dust.

Our purpose shared,
             suspended in trust
                           to a poem
      that told us a long love
                                          is willed.

Believing such
             we are bound to exit
             flattered
                            by our design,
unmindful that this thing
                            has also always
             been lying
                            in wait,
                 a thing
                            in itself, bossy and brutish
that has thrived in spite of
              sabotage chapters
                                           occasional giddy
                           neglect.

 

              A volition
                                           apart
        that exceeds
                            dull need
a self-interweaving
               imperative be mine
                             that will whisper
               our love
                             past dust.