in front of the washing machine,
checking his pockets, I find
receipts, a grocery list,
a folded paper that, when opened,
bursts into flame,
chars a chunk out of my chest
and sears itself to my heart,
melting on like hot plastic
dripping over a vermillion chuck roast.
Hot burned flesh smell briefly;
I get dinner for the children. I read stories.
I place both hands over my temples.
What am I trying to hold in?
I put away the dinner, make sure
my chest keeps rising. The bloody roast
cannot be felt within the cavity.
I put the children in pajamas,
read more books,
put away toys,
feel the crinkle
of the paper in my pocket, its lip curled.
Toothpaste, vitamins, drinks of water,
I am Wile E. Coyote, post-steamroller:
can't they see I'm as flat
as this piece of paper?
Go to bed,
go back to bed, let's go potty, go back to bed
so I can sit here in the dark,
waiting for your father,
waiting, breathing, trying, willing,
for him to come home.
Heidi Kenyon is the retired co-founder of a cooking school,
a former editor at the University of Idaho Press, and the mother of three. She lives in Seattle, Washington.