A Long Time When I Was a Child

For a long time when I was a child

By Annecy Baez

 

For a long time when I was a child I slept with my father every

night it was something he discouraged, but quietly encouraged

with his acceptance

I would sneak out of my room ready to battle the dark shadows

of spirits only children are known to see and I would pray a prayer

my father taught me a prayer that was a shield from danger and I

would pray this prayer about a Guardian Angel and I’d run through

the hall of darkness into his bedroom

When I arrived I would catch my child-like breath gather my

thoughts together and calm my little beating heart

I would have battled any monster any demon or ghost for the

chance of having my father’s body next to mine

Once near him I would sink into the hollow of his back

curl there like a fetus growing straight out of his spine

and when he moved in his sleep I would clench my leg upon his

hip to make sure he would not leave me

My leg there cropped on top of his hairy thigh was an emotional

alarm clock any movement he made would immediately register to

my heart and I would awaken from the deepest sleep for it was as

if in sleeping with him I was sheltered from the cold hands of

death for he was to me both mother and father he was my safety

my life force

My father never betrayed my trust he was awed by the strength of

my love my devotion later when my mind grew to be a woman’s

mind and I had thoughts other than the ones that came from him

it was then he felt utterly betrayed by my womanhood

 

This poem first appeared in Callaloo 23.3 (2000) 979 

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