Mantelpiece

By

Chase Twichell

Dreams brought back to me
the sharp, specific sadness of the hour
(late in the afternoon),

and the circumstances:
a four or five year old girl

in the house of her baby-sitter,
the two of them alone for many hours,
the girl and the middle-aged man,

and his soul-marking games.
She sat naked on the marble mantel,

high above the piano’s yellow teeth,
afraid of falling,
proud to be his child of delight.

For many years, whenever someone
called something “delightful,”

she’d look at them
surprised, for a few seconds
disbelieving that a person

would actually say
such a thing in public.