It was a long time since my parents tucked
me in at night and kissed me. But it was a long
time too since I counted not sheep (what
did I know about sheep?) but carlights passing
over the ceiling, and until I was ten I slept alone.
Then my brother got afraid and my father knocked
the wall between us down. At night, even now,
a middle aged man, I hear the sound of that hammer
through sheetrock, the soft give of it, and the
discovery in my ten-year-old mind that what holds
us up surrenders to force. Not long after that
the wall went back up because I was a teenager
and needed to be alone. Lesson two: growing up
means being alone, and my brother found the change
more unbearable even than my mother, who cried
and punched her way into our lives, the way I’m sure
I saw a calf punch through his mother’s womb to
be birthed into water. That’s what you call a baby whale,
a calf, and they swim in pods. My brother and I
were calves and we swam all night in a dream
around the humongous bodies of our parents. When
we were old enough to separate, we did, and he moved
to Chicago and I as far east as this island goes, except
the lighthouse throws its beam out into the waves.
Look at the seals duck under the swell. And farther east
the lonely adult whale breaches, ecstatic, happy.
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 17, Issue 3.
See all items about Adam Penna