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Ready for Sleep

ISSUE:  Summer 2001

I’m trying to sleep but can’t
 help think
of my father’s dropping
onto those piss-stained sheets,
how he was instantly out
and snoring loud enough
to wake the entire house,
knowing I will toss and turn,
 about three
cough up hardened mucus and
stare at the fluorescent hands
 of the clock,
squinting my eyes hard to see
how many hours, minutes I have
left before getting up,
something I’d bet my old man
 never did,
the lit cigarette I had to take
 from between his lips
 night after night,
the bottles of Schaefers I’d trip
 over on my way in or out,
fearing their rumbling would wake him
although I should have known better
 even then, —
his wife gone, his other son grown
 into madness,
penniless, pock-marked, with a heart
 that would soon crack, —
and still he’d be singing in his sleep
 as though he knew I was there,
leaning down to his lips, straining to hear
 every word.


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