MY SON'S GO TO SLEEP WITH DIFFERENT ROUTINES
 

Oldest Son

Careworn wisps of quilt whorl your smooth cheeks.

My hand cups your shoulder, the blanket crumples

into the divot of your collarbone. Your eyebrows,

 

the bangs that you curlique between crossed fingers, the blank space

of your forehead - these are the only things visible.

You’re wearing jammies again, after years in underwear,

 

and I wonder who told you that you were naked. You hide

in this warm tangle, but your inhaling smile welcomes my last words,

a prayer whispered into sweaty ears.

 

Second Son

Before we stumble to flick off 

your bedside lamp, you've wadded the sheets,

pajama shirts abstractly jotted like a painting

 

on the floor, thin hairs flipped up

like tree branches - things you ignore.

You are waiting for your brother

 

to brush his teeth, then you will tuck

in your feet and turn from his light.

You're a mess if left alone. Later

 

that night, you will sketch a line through

negative space, drawing your shadow near

to our bed, wanting a steady hand.

 

Third Son

Worry the ridge of my cheekbone, 

the edges of your blankie. Frisking 

for what's missing. Did I forget you

 

need to shine your thumbs on the silky 

tag, drag it across dreary lips?

I haven't prayed for your dreams yet, or

 

straightened covers under your dipping

chin. In the dark, I have not completed

the routines that you believe

 

bring you sleep. I return and breathe 

a slow rhythm beside your cheek. The rising

space set deep will always bring good dreams,

 

and good dreams, and good dreams, and good dreams...

 

Youngest Son

Scrawl of light on sagging, bumpy sheets.

Behind the headboard a paper airplane rests, nose

downward. On the center of the pillow, head twitching

 

left to right, again, and every few turns it inches higher.

The closet is closed, concealing the mess, another

drawer open, gravity’s hands can’t cram the sweatshirts in.

 

In this upstairs bedroom, he sings to find an audience.

He laughs at his tiger, or grabs his ears to avoid silence,

all these twists and bursts - he hopes someone will notice.

 

 

 

 

Matthew Miller teaches social studies, swings tennis rackets, and writes poetry - all hoping to create home. He and his wife live beside a dilapidating orchard in Indiana, where he tries to shape dead trees into playhouses for his four boys. His poetry has been featured in River Mouth Review, Club Plum Journal, Whale Road Review and Ekstasis Magazine.

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