Back to Issue Eighteen.

Child’s Play


You hear your son—your first grader
who will help a classmate put on her coat

and not yet be troubled by the teasing
of other boys, who’s so afraid of ghosts

he needs his sister’s jokes so not to quail
at Casper, who still labializes all his r’s,

who has eyelashes of upswept gossamer—
as he plays with his plastic dinosaurs

in the back of your pick up, wail a siren
sound over and over. And it is this noise

that nudges you from a din of sports radio
to ask him what game he is playing.

He tells you he’s playing Lockdown.
Your ribs heave with a sudden breath,

fissures tear across your chest, as if ripping
out a line of stitches. We practice at school,

he says. When you ask him if it’s scary
he says, No, but it can be uncomfortable

when we all have to crouch in that dark
corner. The teacher puts colored paper

on the door window, he says. You ask why.
So the robber in the hall cannot see inside.

Matt W. Miller is the author of Club Icarus (University of North Texas Press), selected by Major Jackson as the 2012 Vassar Miller Poetry Prize winner, and Cameo Diner: Poems (Loom). His third book, The Wounded for the Water, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry (2018). He has published work previously in SlateHarvard ReviewNotre Dame ReviewSouthwest ReviewFlorida ReviewThird Coast, and Poetry Daily, among other journals. He is the winner of the River Styx Microfiction/ Microbrew Prize and Iron Horse Review‘s Trifecta Poetry Prize and has been awarded fellowships in poetry from Stanford University the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He teaches and coaches at Phillips Exeter Academy.

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