The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Michael Mark

Night Work


All children know after mother’s
kiss, the dark surrounds

We force ourselves to sleep, bunny-
quick, send our dreams out beneath

the door’s crack, out through
the screened windows to spy,

tell us everything mother does while
we sleep, only to forget by morning

All children know, before we wake
mother created air and time, filled

oceans, made whale babies
and turned the planets

All children know what we
are not to know Our mothers

do not sleep even when dying
and mothers are always dying

When mothers speak night sounds
in the middle of the day all children

know we must be angel-good We must
bathe mother, prepare her medicines,

pry her mouth open to feed her with
the eye dropper, read her the Bible, obey

when she calls us different names
We must learn mother’s middle language

But we must never ever speak it
outside the house Mother would know

She will fly through the key hole,
perch on our bed’s edge and pierce us

with tears in her jaundice eyes All
children know everything is our fault




MICHAEL MARK is a hospice volunteer and author of two books of stories, Toba and At the Hands of a Thief (Atheneum). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Cimarron Review, Cutthroat Journal, Harpur Palate, Paterson Literary Review, Pleiades, Poet Lore, Potomac Review, Prelude Magazine, Rattle, Spillway, The Sun, and Sugar House Review. His poetry has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes.



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