How The Light Gets In
My mother believed in shutters
and all our young days were spent in solitary confinement
us tethered by our ankles like toddler cellmates
too weak and neutered to fight for freedom.
In summer we got dizzy staring at crevices in split wood,
the tiny burps of glowing sunlight peeking through
and so I made up a story for my siblings that such radiance
was nothing more than a distress signal from the outside world,
where everything beyond our walls and boarded windows
was a vast infirmary
for those scalded by the sun.
At night while our mother snored
we passed each other imaginary Christmas gifts--
a bb gun, a basketball, a polka dot dress.
We prayed the kind of prayers that are only understood
by those whose single defense is hope,
and because not believing meant the end of everything.
The day God finally showed up--
wearing a holster and badge--
we were too stunned to speak,
not because we’d expected The Messiah to look different
but because we had never seen anyone defeat Mother.
Now, all these years later,
my wife tells me to draw the blinds,
to close the drapes.
She says the glare can be bad for the eyes and
asks me why I’m smiling like that.