The Footlight Players Prize
Winter 2011
Mary Harris

After Dinner

When you are nine and an order
from your dad to get dessert
stands you between cool and coward,

do you step into the garage,
flip a light switch on and wait
to see if the rickety bulb burns, or not,

as sickly smells of rubber tire tubes
mix with a mildewed tent, force you
to hold your breath, and wonder

how he can stand the stench—
the stranger, who might take naps
in the old camper parked on

the far side of darkness beside
a hammer, the shears, an ancient hoe
that line the wall. Or do you stop,

ask yourself how much double
chocolate fudge is worth, if bags
of frozen peas no one will eat,

used for icing bruised knees
and twisted ankles, will be enough
to stave off a phantom in the dark,

imagining yourself next
to them in the freezer, as shouts
of Uno! bury your screams.
©2010 Mary Harris