A Shrine

One floor below, the fridge
stutters awake, makes its mechanical adjustment
the way I’d clear my throat; and from bed
I know it’s late, late and dark.
There’s no traffic yet on Lexington,
no low thrum of trucks idling
making deliveries on Grand, grinding trash.

But something’s disturbed the dog,
who shakes herself briskly
and circles again on her pillow.
Her tags and collar tinkle high-pitched and gentle
and would not rouse me if I weren’t
already wakeful, lying with my eyes
deceptively closed, as if my father
were back again. Checking on me.
Expecting me asleep.
Home from the paper past midnight,

he stood at my door letting his quarters
and thin dimes in his pocket
shift through his fingers, jingling,
his presence and the early hour
mildly announced. And though I’d watched
and waited, I hid myself
unbreathing in my child body
to keep him there, to savor
that fragile music.

:: Janet Holmes, Humanophone (2001)

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