Worst Case

In the silent hours between two and four

in the morning I see them beneath the streetlight

through the north window at the corner

of the house, a little girl with Orphan Annie hair

smushing her nose against the glass of the back

passenger window, her eyes wide circles above

the O of her mouth, all glimpsed in that moment

when her mother brakes for the stop sign


but it is in that moment, too, when the woman

I assume is the child’s mother, looks back

over her right shoulder and catches my eye

with a look that can only be malevolent,

borrowed from a sketch by London’s Phiz

straight out of Dickens, come to life and

heading east toward traffic on Troost.

So hurriedly I shut both tall windows


with their weighted sashes and white frames

which have been wide open on their dusty screens,

pull shut the heavy drapes of my childhood

the blue ones with gigantic red and brown flowers

(floppy half-dead brown flowers with black centers)

the left drape hanging loose where two curtain hooks

dangle, glint in the thin light like something deadly,

lost in the bottom of a tackle box. Worst case


this woman this phantasm thinks she knows me,

that I’m somehow responsible for their plight

whatever it may be, fear a gnawing worm

that makes me dread her turning ‘round in the

intersection to come and knock as she searches

for the non-existent door into this pink room

where I crouch below the sill stretched out

on my belly peering at the road, worst case


I’ve yet to figure why I’ve had this nightmare.