Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence



By Carol Henrie

Mother led us along the flowering
sidewalks to Mike's. We leaned
into the delicious windows
of the cooler. The sky was slate
and red. Every block the quart
of Challenge grew so heavy we
traded the sack, the stag
poised on a red hill. Mother
invoked the linnets and sparrows
to wheedle us toward sleep.

So we lay under the coverlet
watching the last light burn
the bottom of the shade,
dusk gathering bird cries
among the sycamores and telephone
wires. We lay not touching
each other, wiggling our toes
in the sheet, turning the pillows
then turning them over again
to press our cheeks in cool shade.

In the hall outside our door
a blue light burned. If we got
out of bed there was a belt,
and we never got out of bed.
Sometimes I saw that blue light
swimming under our door when I
woke to hear the water
running in the tub and my father's
voice in the wall, like music
from a foreign country.

When the sun came up he would be
asleep. We walked in socks
in our house, we never ran. The phone
huddled under a gray pillow in
the kitchen. We washed his black
lunch box on the counter, laddered
the laces in his heavy shoes,
polished his lantern and lined up his
flares by the door. We spoke to him
this way, answering midnight water.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 63, No. 2 (Summer 1989)


Carol Henrie is a California poet who dances, gardens and writes by moonlight to quiet the mind, open the heart and invite the unexpected. Her work has appeared in FIELD, Beloit Poetry Journal, the Nation, and Salt Hill Journal. Her poetry was twice recognized with fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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