University of Minnesota
minnesota writing project
center for writing

Minnesota Writing Project.Center for Writing's home page.

Ericka Ableiter

© 2005

Bedtime story

Big tears silently roll down your face
As I read aloud your favorite bedtime story.
My concern echoes in my voice as
I pause, perch beside you on your fire truck bed,
“What’s wrong; why are you crying, sweetheart?”
Downcast eyes, trembling lip.
I resume the story.
Your brother in his crib; too young to express
His bewilderment.
I add drama at the end, enticing you to say the last line,
Attempting once again to get you to say the words
In which you take so much pleasure.
Silent tears – your small mouth quivering.
“Why are you sad? Tell Mommy.”
You break into a full-tilt, mouth-opened wail.
I hold you close and coax you to speak from your heart.
Through your sobs I hear, “You didn’t let me say the words;
you didn’t wait when you started.”
My sweet, dear, sensitive four-year-old:
“I’m so unspeakably sorry.”
I promise to start over with you leading tomorrow night.
I kiss you good-night,
Wipe the tears from your cheeks,
And walk from the room
With your salty sadness on my lips
And my heart weighted with guilt.



My duplicity startles me.

I notice lines that don’t melt
when my smile fades.
I notice the slack maternal belly
when I consciously retract it.
I notice the purple-blue mapwork
Creating new routes on my legs.

Is this why I’m more aware – my face,
my lips, and the curl of my hair -
When a younger, attractive man peers at me
through his rearview mirror in morning
rush hour traffic?

A stranger’s double take reverses the image
I notice the sensuous new curve of my hip.
I notice the deeper blue of my experienced eye.
I notice the swan neck emerging from the reflection.

Thirty two – teetering – old enough
for the mature man not to feel lecherous
Youthful enough for the boy-man
to fantasize – sex against a wall –
the upward thrust of time
straddling the next year
caressing the rhythmic clock and

Pleading to make it last.