In a nightmare I find my father’s captain
At the kitchen table, hunched over,
Big slobbery bites in the middle
Of the night. His beard glows orange
Like the cereal. He stares
At the box, mesmerized by coupons.
Milk dribbles out the left of his mouth.
He does not invite me to sit down.
I twist the hem of my white nightgown harder
And do not speak. He knows the question.
“I left your father,” the nightmare says,
“Because he will not leave the bed
And I am hungry.” More crunch,
More slobber. Crumbs glitter his beard.
A spill of milk edges closer to my bare feet.
He smells like a fish wiggling off a hook.
“Why, little girl, do you run away in moonlit pajamas?
Even the cool pavement does not wake you.”
The nightmare wipes his lips with the back
Of his hand, slaps his knee. Half of me
Leaps into his lap.
I want to snatch the cereal away.
But the one leg standing can only hop.
An eye watches the other.
You there in his body, I command to obey.
The sitting half climbs up the beard,
Peers into cave eyes. Asks: “Do your big arms
Keep him in bed all day?”