MY SON'S GO TO SLEEP WITH DIFFERENT ROUTINES
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.
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.
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...
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.