Last night I tucked the corners of the sheet beneath the mattress
as I was taught and still had the same bad dream,
still woke with a knot in my stomach.
When I was young I dreamt of Florida,
of a squat hotel framed by tall palm trees.
Inside the air was thick and heavy,
I was alone on the wrong side
of a gauzy curtain. Pink light. I wanted my mother
but my sister wouldn’t stop crying.
It was never my turn.
The scene so clear in my mind that for a while
I thought it really happened.
On the street a young woman turns her bag inside out
and empties it onto the sidewalk.
A penny rolls away from her and I follow it
all the way to the base of the statue I look up to at night
in this city full of history: mine and the nation’s.
I swear I see Lincoln’s finger move.
A downpour hits at the Korean War Memorial, all those eyes
looking out from nowhere.
We wait it out in a portable bathroom,
the rain a din on plastic. You move to kiss me
but I crack the door. Lincoln’s legs
are long, might move quickly.
I’m so jumpy I bite your lip, too hard, when you make contact.
Our hotel teems with dead lives, stuffed bears and portraits.
All things creak, protesting their decay.
You sleep easy, turned towards the fireplace,
but I’m shot out of a dream, palms hot.
Heavy velvet, a loaded gun, the white chair empty on the hill.
Someplace newer, I say. You rub your eyes. Holiday Inn.
Cream walls, cable TV, the Capitol
framed in dappled light.
You, next to me in the cheaper bed, flinch when I move.
If in Florida I pulled the curtain to the side
perhaps nobody would have been there.
My mother gone out through the back door
with my sister in her arms,
the fan still on.