The Forum Prize
Denise K. James
Stephanie, 12:30 a.m.
This is the time, short as it is,
no one says my name, no one is there
to peel fruit for. I think about being small,
my body my own, not caving open
to a husband at night, a child
during labor. Once, I didn’t need to raise
my voice. Each morning I would coo
at mountain birds, watch them digest
small creatures the way earth’s
belly takes in the dead.
Evenings I could sleep, my stocking
feet padding down our wooden hallways
early, no desperation for silence.
My mother’s long, noiseless hair
would drop out of pins and somehow
never make a sound. She knew the way
to glide past my father, turn her slender
hips to ease them in between corners.
How did they build the quiet, make it last?
Now I build it every night, watch
it tumble like a flute shatters. Then
each dawn I rise and see the flat landscape.