Regan

So there we were, jammed together on the back seat,

Dad in the middle, me and Goneril either side,

holding a hand each when out of the blue

he comes out with that:

‘who’s going to look after me?’ 

Not ‘who loves me the most?’ —

that was some childish thing he made up to torment us later.

         At first I thought he was joking.

We’d been sitting on the deck in the sunshine,

a good day; all right, I think,

perhaps he’s lonely, Mum gone all these years;

and of course Cordelia says nothing, up front,

pretends she’s concentrating on the traffic, though I know

she’s listening; so I think, yes,

we can put him up for a while,

put up with him for a while,

give him a break till we know what’s next. 

If I lean back, I can see

the tiniest stratocumulus above us, following the car,

like my dreams just before dawn, the sweetest,

most playful dreams you’ll get; never a nightmare, never an angry word,

the kids still young, before their Dad developed his mean streak

before …. 

         It had nothing to do with the will.

That business started later, when he’d fly into a rage and threaten

to change it; as if his poxy little bungalow

meant anything to any of us; he thought it was his castle

even as it fell to bits around him:

the mould, the mess,

ceilings bruised by every passing storm’s fist.

 

But what could we do?  His nights were the worst,

lights on, lights off, kitchen clangour at three;

many times, awakened myself, I’d go down to find him

peering through the blinds at the empty street

waiting for dawn

mumbling at the cat about the weather

provoked by late night TV’s insolent jesting.

 

‘Are you angry about something?’ he asks me from the sickbed

not needing to ask, though why or at what —

of course the dish I made didn’t agree with him,

of course then he slept badly all night, and tells me so —

 

one night, when the pain wakes him, I tell him

‘You know, I’ve made a bed on the couch nearby,

in case you call.’ And immediately I regret telling him,

immediately I think ‘Why tell him at all?

Why not show more love in the unannounced act?’

Maybe that’s what Cordelia sees in the rear view mirror,

 

but when I looked up at that cloud

beyond the darkness I was circling

as if bound to an orbit

that bent me taut, strung as a bow before its release

constantly on patrol, unable to keep my mind off the perimeter —

there’s a reason why they put the monsters in the corners of old maps —

not daring to look inwards and so not able to look outwards

 

when I looked up at that cloud, for once

I felt I no longer knew myself; a stranger,

as of a group met upon the heath.

Avalon Literary Review, Fall 2022