Why My Sister is Afraid of the Dark – Poem

Why My Sister is Afraid of the Dark

When her husband is out of town I stay with her,
crawl into place in their bed like a substitute teacher
in a room of unfamiliar children, a body to press weight
against the mattress, a sound of breathing, a tug of sheets.

At two-thirty her son wakes, his cries laden with the innocence
of children. She gets up as if never asleep, she is sleeping
the sleep of the mother, forever at the edge of waking.
She leaves the bedroom door open, the bathroom light on,

afraid of darkness, wanting to control it, too much happens
in the dark that shouldn’t happen, too many things go wrong
at night for children, they stop breathing, they have bad dreams,
someone slips through a door that shouldn’t open. The night

is not for sleep. The night is for waiting,
for guarding against what is awakened.