| In One Tent
It could be the slugs, those fat thumbs
the kids peeled from the tent
before we packed it away in the morning.
Or the dog rolling in rough grass
near—too near—the edge of the cliff
when we hiked, again, through rain.
There’s something, there’s always something.
A sunset, a meal, the longest car-ride
in the history of family vacations,
some tag that will perfectly fit
a certain time in our lives—
five of us in one tent with the dog,
the people I loved most
in one small space, smelling
of wet dog, and together. Until
the older boy unfolded himself
from his sleeping bag, slowly
unzipped the tent flap—is there
any way to zip quietly?—
and went outside, again, to pee.
What was it he had to slip away from?
Branches broke under his slim feet.
Silence. And then
the thin stream arcing onto leaves.
Back in the tent, he zipped shut the flap
and threaded past our tangle of bodies,
past the dog who would die that year
and be buried in his blanket.
I lay there, listening, until I could see
our breathing in the dark, each
humid strand and ribbony pattern.
The world insists on being what it is,
and so then I counted the minutes
\before my son rose again,
already anxious, and left us.
Wendy Mnookin's most recent book, What He Took (BOA Editions, 2002), shared the Sheila Motton Award from the New England Poetry Club. Her other books are To Get Here (BOA Editions, 1999) and Guenever Speaks (Round Table Publications, 1991). She lives in Newton, Massachusetts.