kissed his forehead and tucked him in.
I turned on his night-light and looked for you
in the closet and under the bed. I told him
you were nowhere to be found, but I could smell
your breath, your musty fur. I remember
all your tricks: the jagged shadows on the wall,
click of your claws, the hand that hovered
just above my ankles if I left them exposed.
Since I became a parent I see danger everywhere—
unleashed dogs, sudden fevers, cereal
two days out of date. And even worse
than feeling so much fear is keeping it inside,
trying not to let my love become so tangled
with anxiety my son thinks they’re the same.
When he says he’s seen your tail or heard
your heavy step, I insist that you aren’t real.
Soon he’ll feel too old to tell me his bad dreams.
If you get lonely after he’s asleep, you can
always come downstairs. I’ll be sitting
at the kitchen table with the dishes
I should wash, crumbs I should wipe up.
We can drink hot tea and talk about
the future, how hard it is to be outgrown.