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Room for Truth

All night the nightlights flick their bulbs, silent

like small dogs watching, protecting the children

on their perfect quilted beds in safe rooms

on the top story, quiet in the dark

of this storybook town, this home town

where the clean white kids blow their noses with Kleenex

and practice gymnastics, cutting the labels from outfits

because they itch. Their parents love them so much. 

A land of husbands and parlors of wives

who feel secure in their permanence. 

I don't know these women, my finger is ringless,

I've never owned my own home.

My daughter wears the name of a man

who left her and passed from my life like a dream. 

I shed that "boyfriend" with my concept of sin

but my baby can't let go of him.

On a school record I marked the box `absent’

and went on with my life. I was never his wife,

I am a woman. My progress has been alone.

I have grown with my singular name framed

in the plastic windows of my power bills

and moved to a world with room for myself,

mumbling  prayers for a love beyond my understanding. 

I ask for truth. My proof is with the children

as they look me in the eye, watching.  My daughter sees

me weep; the promise of feeling helps her to speak.

She still cries Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!

and throws her books at me.

I have heard her best dolls thud against the slammed door. 

That perfect rage has challenged the nightmares

and she sleeps, quiet, with Kleenex

wadded in small hills under the tight sheets,

safe in a world with room for truth. We need

to make firm the word that life pretends to keep.

Cutting the labels, our children look us in the eye,


Ashland, Oregon 1991