Rosie Garland Nursery Games

She hides 
in the thicket of shadows 
under the stairs, tucked 
behind the shabby hedge of old coats, 
the long-boned broom, 
the mop nesting its claws in a bucket.   

She bites 
her tongue, hooks fingernails 
into her palm. 
It hurts less 
than the end of bedtime stories. 
  
She wants 
to be as small as a cup handle 
you cannot push your finger through.  

One day 
she will escape 
in the stomach of a giant fish, 
like Sister Bernadette’s story 
of the man who was patient.   

She counts back 
from one hundred, 
holding onto the sneeze 
that is swarming her nose with wasps.  

She is listening 
for his key screeching in the lock. 
for tonight’s game 
of coming, ready or not.


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