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1. Cleofan — to split

Imagine a dotted line around a neck. Imagine
‘cut here’ written there. And me standing with a meat cleaver.
Now imagine how hard your neck and head would
hold each other. Like a baby cleaves
to a pacifier. Or a toddler, might, laughing,
legs and arms locked about a shin, riding a shoe.

2. Clifian — to adhere

As everything must hold on. As long as it
can. And didn’t you use a ‘paci’ much longer
than was appropriate. No one could break you of it.
Even though we tried to scale its use back to just
the traumatic events and during long
naps. But everything without became so traumatic
to you. Who am I to judge—
I sucked my right forefinger
into the first grade—hiding my whole body at naptime
from my childhood peers—but mostly my lips,
my embarrassment, under a blanket—
lest I be cut to the bone by all the small scalpels
they wielded from their eyes and
force-fed me while we ate sugar cookies, together.
Do you remember when there was no holding on. And no need to.

3. Clofen — divided

Nor do I. And still my fingers grow tired. As when I
stood over your bed while you were sleeping,
fumbling nervously with a pair of scissors,
intending to cut another 1/8 inch from the nipple of your pacifier.
A trick we learned from another equivalently struggling
parent. And how I had such mixed feelings.
Still do. We had to cut it to the nub before you would
set it down for good. For good—
even now I don’t pretend to think that it was

4. Toslifan — sliver

all good; though it was good. There’s this sliver in all things:
the word, itself, serving up such mixed signals—as
everything that cleaves also
cleaves, is a knife’s edge
between them. How you looked so miserable,
pulling the sheets down from your face, waking to each fresh cut.
And though you don’t remember, now,
weeks later in your bed you were so frantic. Looking under
pillows, ‘lovies’ and blankets for it.
I picked you up in my arms to settle you,
the sliver that you were back then—so close to my heart
and head—and thought to myself, as much as said: Hold-on.


First published in issue 11, Spring/Summer 2015, of Sugar House Review.

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