By Ramona Perez

From behind a curtain of sleep,

I hear faint

shuffling, fluttering, crinkling.

 

Startling to almost awakeness,

I wonder—

Did my son’s skyscraper scene

hanging

pre

cari

ou

sly

in the hall finally fall

to the ground?

 

Silence

Thump

Silence

 

Heartbeat quickening,

Are we being robbed?

Can’t be. I put the chain

on the door; we’re on the fourth floor.

Crumbling bricks are hard to scale,

and we have nothing worth stealing.

 

Do we have mice?

Are mice digging

through the dirty dishes

I left in the sink for two days

while coughing up copious mocos

and composing secret midnight stories?

The landlady is gonna be mad

if she finds out that my bad housekeeping

spawned an infestation of rodents.

 

Do we have roaches

climbing over the countertops,

their black scurrying bodies

knocking against scattered frying pans?

Hang tight, sister—

those would be

some big ass-roaches.

 

Crinkle

Crackle

Silence

 

What IS that noise?

Better not be a robber

‘cause now

I’m awake.

 

Cognition dawning

over my exhausted stupor,

I peer through the shadows

to see my son…

missing from his snuggle spot.

Now I’m scared—

Was he kidnapped?

Panicking, I haul

my sleep-stunned body

out of bed, down the hallway

to the kitchen (why are the lights on?)

where I find a satin-haired six-year-old

on the dirty linoleum floor

pawing through Tootsie Rolls and

bubble gum lollipops

leftover from Halloween.

 

Ibrahim!

What (control the expletives, mami)

are you doing?!?!

Not cool, man—

I thought we had rats

or giant roaches

or a robber.

 

Don’t say that mami

you’re scaring me!

 

YOU scared ME!

And you know the rules

about sneaking.

Since I can’t trust you

(lecturing as I grab

candy bags off the floor

hovering, menacing like a pirate

attired in mismatched pajamas,

sleeping mask askew

over one bloodshot eye),

I’m gonna have to throw away

all the candy.

 

(Bursting into panicked tears):

—No! You can’t!

I LOVE Tootsie Rolls!

 

Stuffing candy back

on top of the fridge

(How did he get up there?)

I reach for this wily creature—

cradling his tired, sobbing body,

I carry him back to bed.

Baby, go to sleep.

You can have some candy

tomorrow.

[Read Full Issue]