Colby Stopa CC
While I Was Sleeping
I did not hear Kathryn screaming,
six doors down and cold in her flannel nightdress,
calling for help from her dewy backyard,
her silver walker shining by the watchful eye of the moon.
Long before the police came, I had already closed my windows,
checked for strangers behind my shower curtain,
retired behind the locked door of my room,
and lay there, dreaming of my own sweet comfort,
because that’s what I do while I am sleeping.
Two days later, while I napped in the afternoon heat
with Oprah on, they came again, the police
with their shiny weapons drawn against the pain
of our houses. They called for Sheila, across the street
with her beautiful, dark-stained garage door and trellis roses.
Come out, they said, don’t do it.
I woke up then and wished those police would poke
their long nightsticks into the deepest closets of all our houses,
that they would upturn beds and dusty bookcases and accuse
all the sick and crazed and suicidal among us,
cleansing our houses each by each until they found him,
in that corner house just out of sight of my own,
the man I call uncle who once molested me, my fifth grade friend,
my little cousins since then for twenty years,
while I’ve feigned safety, while I’ve feigned comfort,
while I’ve been sleeping.
Hayley Mitchell Haugen holds a Ph.D. in 20th Century American Literature from Ohio University and an MFA in poetry from the University of Washington. She is currently Professor of English at Ohio University Southern, where she teaches courses in composition, American literature, and creative writing. Her chapbook What the Grimm Girl Looks Forward To appears from Finishing Line Press (2016), and poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Rattle, Slant, Spillway, Chiron Review, Verse Virtual and many other journals. Light & Shadow, Shadow & Light from Main Street Rag Publishing Company (2018) is her first full-length collection. She edits Sheila-Na-Gig online: https://sheilanagigblog.com/ and Sheila-Na-Gig Editions.
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