Hands that look sunburned
at first blush
count the silent ticks of a cognitive clock
grasping and releasing in stilted syncopation:
one-two-three-five (must avoid the four)
Did I remember to lock the front door? Out
of bed—again—freezing feet tumble
awaiting the circular inevitability. Again, again.
Pad, pad, pad:
light shuffling accompanies the one-two-three-five
pounding in the head; that mind ricocheted with worry—
worry about the front door, the evil intentions of four,
insidious germs and subsequent scrubbing-scrubbing-scrubbing
in bleach and Comet. Pad,
pad, pad to the front door.
It’s one hundred and thirty four steps, so take a baby-shuffle:
still avoiding the four.
Cold, unyielding brass knob. Locked.
Deadbolt? Check. Creeping black.
Chain lock? Check. Crawling germs. Oh, god.
Pad, pad, pad to the kitchen.
Clorox-fume greetings in the sparkling sink
from twenty-three minutes before. Never twenty-four.
Clorox on the cracked fingers, blistering
out that imperceptible blackness I know it’s there
blackness choking, bleeding in the bleach.
Scrub brushes, pumice, and fingernail files
wear down the nubs where the blackness may hide.
“Shh” the steaming water soothes
as it stings, scalds. “Shh.” Burn it all out;
conclusion so comforting. So predictably round.
This is the last time I can do this tonight. Pad, pad, pad
back to the bedroom. Downey quilt beckons in lover tones,
pleading pillows nudge against that head, that infernal head
still panicking amongst the softness:
Did I remember to lock the front door?